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Home News 72-year-old Bernalillo County Woman Dies of West Nile Virus
David Morgan
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72-year-old Bernalillo County Woman Dies of West Nile Virus

September 17, 2019 - Zoonotic Diseases - Disease

72-year-old Bernalillo County Woman Dies of West Nile Virus

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) and the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department report the death of a 72-year-old woman in Bernalillo County from West Nile virus (WNV) infection.  This is one of 4 cases of WNV in Bernalillo County so far in 2019.

West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States.  It’s most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito, and the disease can vary in severity. Some infections go unnoticed while others cause flu-like symptoms. The most severe cases cause neuroinvasive disease which affects the brain and nervous system and can result in death.

There are neither vaccines nor medications to prevent or treat West Nile virus infection.   People over age 50 or with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of experiencing the severe form of the illness.

Anyone with symptoms of WNV infection are encouraged to seek medical care. Symptoms of the milder form of the disease include headache, joint pain, nausea, low energy and fever. The more severe neuroinvasive form of the disease has additional symptoms of neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, seizures, muscle weakness, paralysis and coma.

“Until the first hard frost, the risk of getting West Nile virus infection in New Mexico will continue” says Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel. “We want to encourage everyone to prevent mosquito bites.”

“This has been a particularly intense year for mosquito activity,” said Dr. Mark DiMenna, Deputy Director for the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department.  “There are still record numbers of mosquitoes in the area, and precautions to reduce risk are strongly advised.”

The best way to prevent infection with the disease virus is to “Fight the Bite” and prevent mosquito bites by doing the following:

  • Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside and be sure to follow the instructions on the label. Among the EPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin, and IR3535. Natural products containing soybean oil or oil of lemon eucalyptus have also been shown to be effective but need to be applied more often.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • When weather permits, wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks. Mosquitoes can bite through thin clothing, so use an EPA-registered repellent on your clothing.
  • 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 something as small as a bottle cap of stagnant water.
  • Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.
  • 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.
  • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Empty water from containers such as old tires, flowerpots and trash receptacles. Circulate water in swimming pools and change water regularly in birdbaths and pet bowls.

So far in 2019, there have been twenty human cases of WNV, with thirteen patients having the neuroinvasive form of the disease. The patients have been from Dona Ana, Socorro, Sandoval, Valencia, San Juan, Taos and Bernalillo counties. In 2018 there were seven cases of human WNV disease and in 2017 there were 33 cases.

For more information, including fact sheets in West Nile Virus Factsheet (English) and El Virus del Nilo Occidental Factsheet (Spanish), about how to protect against West Nile virus, visit West Nile Virus.


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Mujer de 72 años del Condado de Bernalillo Muere debido al Virus del Nilo Occidental