First 2020 human case of West Nile virus in San Juan County

New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Department of Health confirmed the first human case of West Nile virus in New Mexico in 2020.

According to the NMDOH, the person is in his 50s and from San Juan County. The man was diagnosed with the neuroinvasive form of the disease which requires hospitalization and is now recovering.

“At a time where all of us are focused on COVID-19, we still must remember common seasonal viruses like West Nile,” said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel in a news release. “West Nile virus can be a serious health concern anywhere in New Mexico where mosquitos are active.”

The NMDOH says New Mexico has had cases of West Nile virus infection every year since 2003. Last year, there were 40 cases in New Mexico including four fatal cases. In 2018, there were seven cases and one reported death.

Minimizing Exposure to Mosquitos:

  • 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.
  • Regularly drain standing water and scrub containers, including empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters, saucers under potted plants, birdbaths, wading pools, and pets’ water bowls. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water.
  • Make sure rain barrels are tightly screened.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.

People above the age 50 and those with other health issues are at highest risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when infected with the virus. If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their doctor. The NMDOH also says that there are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection.

Symptoms can include:

  • headache
  • fever
  • muscle and joint aches
  • nausea
  • fatigue

The NMDOH says people with West Nile fever typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for weeks to months. Horses can also get sick with West Nile virus.

To protect your horse against West Nile virus:

  • Consult your veterinarian to ensure the current West Nile virus vaccination status of your horse.
  • Routinely apply horse-specific insect repellant on your horses.
  • Minimize horse exposure to mosquitoes during peak mosquito feeding periods at dawn and dusk.

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