New Jersey battles West Nile virus online

In an effort to battle the deadly West Nile virus, the New Jersey Office of Information Technology is maintaining a Web site that offers information about the disease, testing results and links to other helpful sites.

The site springs from $2.5 million in state money combined with $2 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

West Nile is a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected with the virus by feeding on birds with the virus in their bloodstream. Last year, six New Jersey residents became ill and one died from the disease, which was detected in 20 of the state's 21 counties. The disease has affected at least two birds so far this spring.

The state's effort has brought together numerous state and federal agencies to help fight the disease. The state's Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey, the CDC and the Rutgers University Mosquito Biology and Control Unit all have a presence on the site and contributed to its creation.

"The major cooperation involved here was not really Web-based," said Dennis McGowan, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Senior Services, the lead agency in the operation. "The real cooperation came in all the agencies providing and sharing information to make the site as complete as possible. The OIT really did a great job on constructing the site."

The site offers an interactive map feature that tracks the virus through key parts of the country.

"What we really wanted to do with the site was to make a gateway of sorts," said John Flood, a senior data analyst at the state's OIT. "There are so many sources of information out there on the virus, between the various state and federal agencies on board, we just really wanted to create a single place where concerned citizens can go for all the information they need."

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