Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

FIrst human West Nile case of year reported


May 27, 2020

The New Mexico Department of Health last week reported the first human case of West Nile virus infection in the state this year.

The patient was a San Juan County man in his 50s. He was diagnosed with the neuroinvasive form of the disease, which has required hospitalization, and he is recovering, according to a news release Thursday from the agency.

West Nile virus is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that sometimes can be fatal. New Mexico has seen cases of West Nile virus infection every year since the virus was introduced to the state in 2003.

Mosquito populations increase when temperatures are warm and standing water is accessible. Female mosquitoes can lay hundreds of eggs in even a small amount of water. It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to sicken a person.

The Department of Health encourages residents to take precautions to protect themselves against the virus. Last year, there were 40 cases in New Mexico, including four fatalities. In 2018, there were seven confirmed West Nile virus cases in the state with one reported death.

To reduce the chance of a mosquito bite that can transmit West Nile virus, the agency recommends:

• Using an approved insect repellent every time one goes outside and following the instructions on the label. Among the EPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus or menthoglycol.

• Draining standing water and scrubbing containers, including empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters, saucers under potted plants, birdbaths, wading pools, and pets’ water bowls. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water.

• Ensuring rain barrels are tightly screened.

• Wearing long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

• Using air conditioning or ensuring there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering a home.

“At a time where all of us are focused on COVID-19, we still must remember common seasonal viruses like West Nile,” said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel.

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

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.

Horses also can get sick with West Nile virus. To protect your horse:

• 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, visit the West Nile virus section of the Department of Health’s website, NMHealth.org.


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