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An 82-year-old New Jersey man has become the first person in the United States this year to die of the West Nile virus, Gov. Christine Todd Whitman said Wednesday.

Officials did not immediately identify the man, who died Sept. 14, which was 11 days after he became ill. They said that he had other ailments but that the West Nile virus had been the principal cause of death.

"People shouldn't panic," said Whitman, who urged residents to wear insect repellent and long-sleeved clothes.

Last year, seven people died and 55 others were infected in the New York metropolitan area during the first known appearance of the virus in the Western Hemisphere. The virus is carried by birds and mosquitoes.

This year, 12 people have been infected in New York and four in New Jersey, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus has been detected in birds in New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Pennsylvania officials said Wednesday that they had found the virus in two dead crows outside Philadelphia.

A number of dead birds in Western New York have been detected with the virus, including 14 in Erie County as of Saturday.

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