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May 23, 2014

West Nile Virus is a serious -- and deadly -- disease. There were 12 cases of it identified in New Jersey last year -- causing two deaths. Still, that’s quite a small part of the 2,469 cases around the country.

West Nile Virus is passed along only by mosquitos; we are entering the season in which the disease is spread.

Only about 20 percent of infected people fall ill after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Those that do suffer symptoms, do so three to 15 days after a bite. Symptoms include flu-like illness, swollen lymph glands, nausea, aches, and fever. Severe symptoms include a stiff neck and swelling of the brain.

According to the state Department of Health, less than 1 percent of victims experience severe symptoms. However, there is no specific treatment or vaccine for the disease and antibiotics are ineffective.

The best way to prevent the disease is by avoiding mosquito bites, through the use of insect repellent or clothing. State officials also advise emptying out still water in gardens and clearing gutters and drains.

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