Santa Fe — The New Mexico Department of Health announced Friday that an 84-year-old woman from San Juan County has died from West Nile Virus infection. This is the second death due to West Nile Virus in New Mexico in 2013. The woman had encephalitis, the more severe clinical form of the disease.
“West Nile Virus infection can potentially lead to serious complications in anyone who gets infected,” said Department of Health Secretary of Health Retta Ward, MPH. ”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.”
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.
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.
“There are mosquito populations throughout the state and any one mosquito could potentially be infected with West Nile Virus,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the Department’s public health veterinarian. “We urge everyone to follow the precautions listed to reduce their risk of becoming infected.”
To protect you and your family from West Nile Virus infection:
• Use insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors. 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. 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, and 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, vaccinate your horses to protect them from West Nile Virus and Western Equine Encephalitis, which is also carried by mosquitoes.
New Mexico has had a total of 7 human cases so far this year, including a 13-year-old boy from San Juan County, a 66-year-old woman from Curry County, a 60-year-old man from Bernalillo County, and a fatal case in an 83-year-old man from Curry County. In 2012, the New Mexico Department of Health identified 47 cases of West Nile Virus infection, including 1 fatality and 24 with serious disease of the central nervous system.
For more information about West Nile Virus, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, go to the Department of Health’s website at http://nmhealth.org/ERD/HealthData/westnile.shtml .