PARAMUS - Two new mosquito-borne viruses have made their way to New Jersey.
Health officials have added the chikungunya virus, which has spread through the Caribbean, to a list of other mosquito-borne viruses that New Jersey residents should be aware of.
"They're bit by a mosquito in the endemic country and the virus is present in their blood," says Bergen County Disease Prevention and Control Program Manager Karen Alelis. "When they come back to New Jersey, if another mosquito bites an infected person, it can transmit that virus."
Officials say that more than two dozen New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya. About a dozen more have tested positive for dengue fever, a similar disease.
Symptoms of the diseases include fevers, headaches, severe muscle aches and joint aches. Alelis says anyone believed to have the disease should try to stay inside to keep it from spreading.
Several pools of mosquitoes have also tested positive for West Nile virus, but no human cases have been reported in New Jersey.
Asian tiger mosquitoes carry the viruses. New Jersey has seen an uptick in the population because of the Asian tiger mosquito's ability to breed in the smallest places. "Those mosquitoes can breed in a bottle cap filled with water so this is what you're up against," says Bergen County Mosquito Control Chief Inspector Pete Rendine.
Rendine recommends flipping over pails, cleaning gutters and rinsing tarps used in yards to limit the areas mosquitoes can breed.
Neither of the new viruses are believed to be fatal, but officials say there are concerns because one Long Island resident contracted dengue fever last year even though he did not travel.