Danger hides in standing or flood waters

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Mosquitos and puddles go together. Recent rains and floods have left Socorro and Catron counties with plenty of standing water that will only get muddier, stinkier and more toxic as the month rolls on.

A recent release from the Department of Health advises New Mexicans to avoid standing water and floodwaters.

Floodwater and standing water pose risks, the release says, including infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries.

Floodwaters can contain sewage and carry sharp objects such as glass or metal fragments, that can cause injury and lead to infection. 

The heavy rain has left large amounts of standing water throughout the state, and with rain forecasted to continue this week, excess water is expected to be slow to evaporate.

Protect yourself and your family by following these steps:

Eating or drinking anything contaminated by floodwater can cause diarrheal disease. Do not allow children to play in floodwater areas.

Practice good hygiene (hand washing) after contact with flood waters. Keeping hands clean during an emergency helps prevent the spread of germs. If your tap water is not safe to use, wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled.

Wash children's hands frequently (always before meals).

Do not allow children to play with toys that have been contaminated by floodwater and have not been disinfected.

Floodwaters can displace animals, insects and reptiles. Be alert and avoid contact.

Mosquitoes are sure to be present in areas with standing pools of water. Wear long-sleeve clothing, pants and boots when outdoors. Use mosquito repellent to protect yourself against bites. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 for use on skin, and permethrin for use on clothing.

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.

"There are mosquito populations throughout the state and any one mosquito could potentially be infected with West Nile Virus," said Dr. Paul Ettestad, DoH's public health veterinarian. "We urge everyone to follow the precautions listed to reduce their risk of becoming infected."

New Mexico has had two deaths of West Nile virus so far this year and, according to DoH, West Nile activity has been detected across the state.

In addition to the two deaths, an 84-year-old woman in San Juan County and an 83-year-old man from Curry County, cases have also been confirmed in a 57-year-old man from Chaves County who was hospitalized with severe neurologic disease and a woman from De Baca County who had the less severe West Nile fever and was not hospitalized. Two horses from Lea County have also been confirmed with West Nile Virus infection. Both have recovered.

"West Nile virus infection can potentially lead to serious complications in anyone who gets infected," said DOH Secretary Retta Ward. "That's especially true for people older than 60, so with September being one of the peak months for West Nile cases in New Mexico, we're asking everyone to be mindful of the risks and take the necessary precautions."

Common West Nile virus symptoms are fever, nausea, headache, and muscle aches. In rare cases, West Nile virus can cause meningitis or encephalitis. If someone has these symptoms, they should see their health care provider.