The number of people afflicted with West Nile virus jumped sharply in Pennsylvania this week, while cases appear to be dropping in New Jersey.
Pennsylvania officials confirmed four West Nile cases, all in the Philadelphia region, this week, bringing the state's total for the year to 11.
The state Department of Environmental Protection said the cases involved a Philadelphia man, a Philadelphia woman and two men from Montgomery County.
Until this week, just five cases in the region had been reported so far this year -- two in Delaware county and one each in Bucks, Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. One person, a man from Bucks, died. Two other non-fatal cases occurred in York County.
West Nile is transmitted to humans from mosquitoes; the disease can cause potentially fatal swelling of the brain and spinal cord lining.
Cases in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were first confirmed on Aug. 16.
Since then, New Jersey has also seen 11 cases of the virus this year, though no instances have been reported since mid-September. Five of those cases occurred in Camden County, two in Burlington and one each in Gloucester, Bergen, Morris and Ocean counties.
The virus is most common from mid-summer through early fall. Symptoms include a fever, headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting and rash.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 60 confirmed West Nile cases in Pennsylvania last year, with four deaths. In New Jersey, there were 48 cases and six deaths.
People are encouraged to protect themselves from the virus by taking steps that include:
- Removing containers that can collect standing water and turning over items like wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use
- Cleaning roof gutters
- Not letting water collect in areas like bird baths
- Cleaning swimming pools regularly
- Using screen doors and windows
- Wearing long sleeves and pants