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Home News Additional West Nile Virus Cases in New Mexico in 2016
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Additional West Nile Virus Cases in New Mexico in 2016

September 27, 2016 - Zoonotic Diseases - Disease

State Encourages New Mexicans to Protect Themselves from Mosquito Bites Until First Hard Frost

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) announced three additional cases of West Nile Virus today. During the past month, a 53-year-old Bernalillo County man, a 57-year-old Doña Ana County man, and a 40-year-old McKinley County man have been diagnosed with West Nile virus. All three individuals developed neuroinvasive disease and were hospitalized. These are the third, fourth, and fifth human cases of West Nile virus infection identified in New Mexico this year. Previous cases were reported in Rio Arriba and Valencia counties.

“West Nile virus may still be circulating in New Mexico until mosquito activity ceases after the first hard frost,” said NMDOH Cabinet Secretary Designate Lynn Gallagher. “New Mexicans should continue to take precautions against mosquito bites whenever mosquitoes are active.”

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 the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus are most active.
  • Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the house or other buildings.

“West Nile virus causes illness in both people and 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 because of late season rains this year can potentially see cases through October.”

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 a healthcare provider for evaluation and potential laboratory testing.

In 2015, the NMDOH identified 14 cases of West Nile Virus infection in people, 12 with neuroinvasive disease, none of which were fatal. Three horses were diagnosed with West Nile virus infection last year.

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 about how to protect against West Nile virus in both English and Spanish, visit the West Nile Virus section of our website.

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Casos Adicionales del Virus del Nilo Occidental en Nuevo México en 2016