Get Vaccinated Report Abuse/Neglect Sign up for E-news! Reproductive Health 988: 24/7 LIfeline
Home News First Human West Nile Virus Death in New Mexico in 2016
David Morgan
575-528-5197 Office
575-649-0754 Mobile

First Human West Nile Virus Death in New Mexico in 2016

September 8, 2016 - Zoonotic Diseases - Disease

State Encourages New Mexicans to Protect Themselves from Mosquito Bites

The New Mexico Department of Health announced today a 63-year-old Valencia County man has died from West Nile virus. The man developed neuroinvasive disease and was hospitalized before his death. This is the second human case of West Nile virus infection identified in New Mexico this year and the state’s first West Nile virus fatality in 2016.

“West Nile is still circulating in New Mexico and, in some cases, it can be fatal,” said Department of Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher. “People over the age of fifty are at increased risk of having serious consequences from infection with West Nile virus and should be especially careful to avoid mosquito bites.”

To reduce the chances of a mosquito bite that can transmit West Nile virus, people should:

  • Use an approved insect repellent every time they go outside and follow the instructions on the label. Among the EPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol.
  • Regularly drain standing water, including water collecting in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.

“With continued rainfall mosquito populations can be expected to increase and cause illness from West Nile virus in both people and in horses throughout the state,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the Department’s public health veterinarian. “New Mexico typically sees most of its West Nile virus cases in August and September but can see cases through October and until the first hard frost.”

Symptoms of the milder form of illness, West Nile fever, can include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. People with West Nile fever typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for weeks to months. Symptoms of West Nile neuroinvasive disease can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. People over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected with the virus. If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider.

In 2015, the New Mexico Department of Health identified 14 cases of West Nile Virus infection in people, 12 with neuroinvasive disease, but no fatalities. Three horses were diagnosed with West Nile virus infection in 2015.

To further protect yourself against West Nile virus, you can minimize the risk for both human and horse cases by eliminating water-holding containers where mosquitoes lay their eggs, such as old tires, as well as regularly changing the water in birdbaths, wading pools, and pets’ water bowls.  Make sure rain barrels are tightly screened.

To protect your horse against West Nile virus:

  • Consult your veterinarian to ensure the current West Nile virus vaccination status of your horse.
  • Routinely apply horse-specific insect repellant on your horses.
  • Minimize horse exposure to mosquitoes during peak mosquito feeding periods at dawn and dusk.

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

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.

Versión en Español

En un esfuerzo para hacer que nuestros comunicados de prensa sean más accesibles, también tenemos disponibles una versión en español. Por favor presione el enlace de abajo para acceder a la traducción.

Primera muerte humana por el virus del Nilo Occidental en 2016