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David Morgan
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Mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika found in Lea County

August 29, 2016 - Zoonotic Diseases - Alert

Lea is now the eighth New Mexico County where specific mosquito species is discovered

The New Mexico Department of Health and New Mexico State University (NMSU) announced today that Aedes aegypti, a species of mosquito that can transmit Zika virus, has been identified in Lea County, making it the first time this mosquito species has been identified in the county.

With this discovery, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been trapped and identified this summer in Lea, Doña Ana, Eddy, Chaves and Sierra counties and Aedes albopictus in Roosevelt County. In past years, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes have also been reported from Otero County and Aedes albopictus from Curry County. 

“We are mapping out the areas at risk of Zika transmission in New Mexico,” said Department of Health Secretary Designate Lynn Gallagher. “With this latest discovery, we are alerting the residents Lea County to do as others in neighboring counties are already doing: eliminate standing water around homes where these mosquitoes can breed and multiply. Help your community prevent the devastating consequences of birth defects from Zika virus infection in pregnant women.”

This summer, the New Mexico Department of Health funded a mosquito surveillance project conducted by NMSU to determine the range and distribution of both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the state. Both mosquito species are capable of transmitting Zika virus to people. The project, still ongoing, is sampling 24 counties across the state.

Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These mosquitoes typically lay eggs in and near standing water in containers like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases.  They prefer to bite people, and live indoors and outdoors near people. They are aggressive daytime biters, but they can also bite at night. The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.

“Recent rains across the state have led to a lot of standing water for mosquitos to lay their eggs so right now their populations are multiplying,” said Paul Ettestad, the health department’s public health veterinarian. “That’s why it’s very important for New Mexicans to get rid of the standing water around their homes every time it rains.”

To date, there have been no cases of Zika virus disease identified in Lea County. New Mexico has had six travel-acquired cases of Zika virus this year. In each case, the patient was infected while traveling abroad and diagnosed after they returned home.

Avoid Zika and other viruses like West Nile Virus, which are also spread by mosquitos, by taking the following steps:

  • Look around your home and remove any standing water that may be found in flower pots, bird baths, old tires, bottle caps or other small containers, and then scrub out the containers to remove any mosquito eggs. The small squiggly creatures you may see in the standing water are mosquito larvae that will turn into adult mosquitoes in a few days.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • Use Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for children and pregnant or breast-feeding women.

For more information about Zika virus, visit the Zika Virus section of our website and the Zika Virus Information for Pregnant Women page.

Media Contact

We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.