DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH NEWS RELEASE
The New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) reports a Valencia County man is the first death in 2023 linked to West Nile virus in the state.
The death is one of now 36 human cases confirmed by DOH this year through the end of August.
West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. It’s typically spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito, and the disease can vary in severity. Most 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.
Infections have been confirmed in residents of Bernalillo, Doña Ana, Lea, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Juan, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Taos, Torrance, Union, and Valencia Counties. The virus has also been identified in 16 horses and two birds from Colfax, Doña Ana, Los Alamos, McKinley, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Sierra, Torrance, Union, and Valencia Counties.
West Nile virus is transmitted primarily by mosquitoes which are most active during dawn and dusk. Mosquito populations can develop with or without rain, using stagnant water from everyday sources like plant watering and irrigation. They can breed in small containers found around homes.
Both case numbers and deaths among humans vary widely year-to-year. Over the past five years, between one and six New Mexicans residents have died each year from West Nile virus.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection in humans. People ages 50 years and older and those with other health issues are at highest 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 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.
DOH again reminds residents to protect yourself from infection in the following ways:
- Use an approved insect repellent every time you 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.
- Eliminate water-holding containers where mosquitoes lay their eggs, such as old tires, empty cans, and other unneeded outdoor items that can hold water.
- Drain the water in birdbaths, wading pools, and saucers under potted plants weekly.
- Make sure rain barrels are tightly screened.
- Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- 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.
For more information about West Nile virus, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, go to the DOH’s West Nile webpage.