Coming off New Jersey's worst year on record for West Nile virus activity, the state says the work of controlling mosquito populations — by both professionals and residents — is more important than ever.

And thanks to a wet spring, the fight against the bloodsucking insect is off to an early start in 2019.

"We were actually seeing larvae hatching out of their eggs in March this year, so the local programs have been out inspecting. When necessary, they've been treating," Scott Crans, administrator of the state's Office of Mosquito Control Coordination, told New Jersey 101.5.

Every New Jersey county has its own mosquito control program. As one of their many efforts in place to control the mosquito population, counties can request fish from the state that take care of the pest in isolated bodies of water, such as an abandoned swimming pool.

Mosquitoes, those, can be attracted to even the tiniest amount of standing water. Common sources include flower pots, pet food dishes and clogged rain gutters.

More than 60 species of mosquitoes reproduce in the Garden State on a regular basis. About a third can carry diseases.

In 2018, the state reported more than 60 cases of West Nile across 20 counties. More than 1,330 mosquito samples tested positive for the virus as well. Surveillance programs documented above-average mosquito populations overall.

"What we're seeing with these warming climate trends is an earlier start of the season and it extending into the fall," Crans said.

Crans said testing for West Nile is not yet underway this year, but a number of programs are saving mosquitoes they've picked up and will test them in June.

As mosquito season begins, the state says it is critical that residents also do their part to limit the threat.

"You can protect yourself and your family from mosquito-borne diseases by wearing long sleeves and pants, using EPA-registered insect repellent and treating clothing and outdoor gear with permethrin," state Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said in a news release. "If you're planning a trip overseas, check the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Traveler's website to find out about mosquito-borne disease risks and then take steps to prevent mosquito bites while traveling and for three weeks once you're back in New Jersey."

The Department of Health expects to a launch a new social media campaign, #FightTheBiteNJ, this summer.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.