ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Department of Health and the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department reported that a 72-year-old woman in Bernalillo County has died from West Nile virus infection, Tuesday.
This is one of four West Nile virus cases in Bernalillo County so far in 2019. Last year, seven confirmed cases were reported in New Mexico, including one fatal case. In 2017, 33 cases were reported in New Mexico including one death.
West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. It’s most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito, with the disease itself varying in severity. Flu-like symptoms can occur, while other infections go unnoticed. The most severe cases cause neuroinvasive disease which affects the brain and nervous system and can result in death.
No vaccines or medications exist to prevent or treat the West Nile infection. People over the age of 50 or with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of experiencing the severe form of the illness.
The best way to prevent infection with the disease virus is to “Fight the Bite” and prevent mosquito bites by doing the following:
- Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside and be sure to follow the instructions on the label. Among the EPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin, and IR3535. Natural products containing soybean oil or oil of lemon eucalyptus have also been shown to be effective but need to be applied more often.
- Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- When weather permits, wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks. Mosquitoes can bite through thin clothing, so use an EPA-registered repellent on your clothing.
- Regularly drain standing water, including water collecting in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in something as small as a bottle cap of stagnant water.
- Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.
- 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.
- Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Empty water from containers such as old tires, flowerpots, and trash receptacles. Circulate water in swimming pools and change water regularly in birdbaths and pet bowls.
So far in 2019, there have been 20 human cases of West Nile virus reported in New Mexico, 13 of which having the neuroinvasive form of the disease. Cases have been reported in Dona Ana, Socorro, Sandoval, Valencia, San Juan, Taos, and Bernalillo counties.