SANTA FE – The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reports the death of a 61-year-old San Juan County man from West Nile virus (WNV). His death is the state’s first known West Nile virus death of 2017. In addition, four Bernalillo County residents have tested positive for West Nile virus and have been hospitalized, bringing the total number of lab confirmed cases of WNV in the state this year to seven.
The four recent cases in Bernalillo County include a 65-year-old woman currently hospitalized as well as a 57-year-old man, a 60-year-old man, and a 75-year-old man all of which have been treated and recently released from local hospitals.
“Mosquito populations have been unusually high all summer, and we continue to focus control efforts on areas where humans are at risk,” said Dr. Mark DiMenna, Deputy Director of the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department. “We encourage citizens in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County to report high levels of mosquito activity through 311 in order to request control.”
WNV causes disease ranging from mild illness with fever to severe neuroinvasive disease that can affect the brain and other parts of a person’s nervous system.
“West Nile virus is regularly transmitted by mosquitoes around the state, and, in some cases, it can be fatal,” said Department of Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher. “People ages 50 and older are at higher 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 WNV, New Mexico residents should:
- Use an EPA-approved insect repellent every time they go outside and follow the instructions on the label. Among approved repellents 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 around New Mexico, mosquito populations are expected to grow and potentially create more cases of West Nile virus in both people and in horses. 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. Some of these symptoms can cause permanent damage.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider.
In 2016, NMDOH identified six cases of WNV infection in people, all with neuroinvasive disease, and with one patient dying.
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. It is also recommended to routinely apply horse-specific insect repellant on your horses, and 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 here.