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Home News First New Mexico West Nile Virus Death of 2014
Kenny Vigil
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First New Mexico West Nile Virus Death of 2014

September 23, 2014 - Zoonotic Diseases - Disease

8 Cases Confirmed Statewide

The New Mexico Department of Health announced today that an 89-year-old man from Lea County has died from West Nile virus infection. This is the first fatality due to West Nile virus in New Mexico in 2014. The man had encephalitis, the more severe clinical form of the disease, and had been hospitalized. Eight cases of West Nile virus infection have been confirmed in the state this year.

Cases this year have also been confirmed in a 45-year-old woman from San Juan County, a 7-year-old boy from De Baca County, a 41-year-old woman from Quay County, a 73-year-old man from Doña Ana County, a 74-year-old woman from Grant County, a 67-year-old woman from Quay County, and a 40-year-old woman from Sandoval County. Four of these cases developed the more severe neurologic form of West Nile virus infection and all of these cases are recovering.

“West Nile virus infection can potentially lead to serious complications in anyone who gets infected; but it’s especially true for people older than 50,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “It’s important that everyone take the appropriate precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

People become infected with West Nile virus from the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms usually start from 2 to 14 days later. Common West Nile virus symptoms are fever, nausea, headache, and muscle aches. In rare cases, West Nile virus can cause meningitis or encephalitis. If someone has these symptoms, they should see their health care provider. People 50 years and older are at most risk for serious disease from West Nile virus.

“Mosquito populations are high throughout the state due to the large amounts of rainfall, and everyone should assume that some of these mosquitoes are carrying West Nile virus,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the Department’s public health veterinarian. “September is one of the peak months for West Nile virus cases in New Mexico, so we’re asking everyone to be mindful of the risks and take the necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”

To protect yourself from West Nile virus:

  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 for use on skin, and permethrin for use on clothing. Always follow label directions when using insect repellents.
  • When weather permits, wear protective clothing such as loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.
  • The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for mosquitoes. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing, or avoid outdoor activities during these times.
  • Eliminate water-holding containers where mosquitoes lay their eggs, such as old tires, and regularly change the water in birdbaths, wading pools and pet water bowls. Make sure rain barrels are tightly screened.
  • Keep windows and doors closed if not screened. If you leave your house doors or windows open, make sure they have screens that fit tightly and have no holes.

In 2013, the New Mexico Department of Health identified 38 cases of West Nile virus infection, including 3 fatalities and 24 with serious disease of the central nervous system.

For more information about West Nile virus, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, visit the West Nile Virus section of our website.

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Primera Muerte por el Virus del Nilo Occidental en Nuevo México en 2014