Health Department confirms first human West Nile case in NM in 2012
The New Mexico Department of Health announced a 63-year-old man from Bernalillo County has been diagnosed with a West Nile virus infection. He is in the hospital with the more severe clinical form of West Nile virus, with neurological symptoms including encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. This is the first human case of laboratory-confirmed West Nile virus infection in New Mexico in 2012.
The Department reported last week mosquitoes from Sandoval and Bernalillo counties had tested positive for West Nile virus this year. “It’s important to remember that older adults are more susceptible to developing serious complications from West Nile virus, and they need to be especially careful to avoid mosquito bites,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Catherine Torres.
Common West Nile virus symptoms are fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches. If someone has these symptoms, they should see their health care provider. In rare cases, West Nile virus can cause meningitis or encephalitis.
“Because of the large amounts of rainfall New Mexico received recently, mosquito populations are increasing and we should expect West Nile virus activity throughout the state,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the department’s public health veterinarian. New Mexico typically sees most of its West Nile cases in August and September.
To protect against West Nile:
- Use insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 for use on skin, and permethrin for use on clothing. Always follow label directions when using insect repellents.
- When weather permits, wear protective clothing, such as loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.
- The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for mosquitoes. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing or avoid outdoor activities during these times.
- Eliminate water-holding containers where mosquitoes lay their eggs, such as old tires. Regularly change the water in birdbaths, wading pools and pet water bowls. Make sure rain barrels are tightly screened.
- 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.
- Also, it is important to vaccinate your horses to protect them from West Nile virus and Western Equine Encephalitis, which are both carried by mosquitoes.
In 2011 New Mexico had four cases of West Nile virus infection, all with serious neuroinvasive disease. In 2010, there were 25 confirmed cases of West Nile virus infection in New Mexico, 21 with neuroinvasive disease and one fatality.
For more information about West Nile virus, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, go to the Department of Health’s website at www.nmhealth.org/ERD/HealthData/westnile.shtml.