SANTA FE – The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) announce the mosquito species Aedes aegypti has been found in the City of Socorro in Socorro County. This is the first time a species of mosquito capable of transmitting Zika virus has been found in this county. There have been no identified human cases of Zika virus in Socorro County to date.
“Socorro County is the farthest north Aedes aegypti has been found in the state, and we will be working with NMSU in the coming weeks to see if this mosquito species has made it even further north,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Lynn Gallagher. “It is important we track the areas at risk for Zika as it allows us to prepare and educate New Mexicans about prevention based on where they live.”
NMDOH has been working with NMSU for two years now to track mosquito populations in the state and map out the range and distribution in New Mexico of both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, mosquito species that are able to transmit Zika virus to people. These species of mosquitoes become infected when they take blood from a person already infected with the virus. Once infected, they can bite other people and infect them with the virus as well.
The addition of Socorro County brings the total number of counties in the state with mosquitos capable of spreading Zika to nine. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been trapped and identified in Doña Ana, Eddy, Chaves, Sierra, Lea, Otero, Hidalgo, and Socorro counties and Aedes albopictus in Roosevelt County.
There have been no confirmed cases of Zika virus in New Mexico residents in 2017. There were ten cases of Zika virus disease were reported in New Mexico in 2016. In each case, travelers were infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home.
Residents traveling out of the country should be concerned about Zika transmission – particularly women who are pregnant or trying to conceive and their sexual partners – as Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a list of countries with active Zika virus transmission on their Zika Virus Travel Information page.
The best way to prevent Zika, West Nile and other mosquito transmitted diseases is to prevent mosquito bites. Certain species of mosquitos, particularly the Aedes aegypti, prefer to bite people, so they tend to live indoors and outdoors near people. They are aggressive daytime biters, but they can also bite at night.
To avoid Zika and other viruses like West Nile Virus, NMDOH recommends 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 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.