Wet Weather Brings Nile Virus Back
Submitted by R.W. with the Jemez Daily Post
West Nile Virus Returns to New Mexico With Recent Rains
SANTA FE – They are a concern every rainy season in New Mexico: mosquitos.
Not just because they’re annoying, not just because their bites itch, but also because of the illness in spreads year after year. We’re talking about West Nile virus.
Right now, New Mexico is one of only a handful of states reporting human cases of the virus, including Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and it has a lot to do with all the recent rains we’ve had.
The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reported its first case of West Nile virus in late May – that of a 12-year-old girl in Valencia County. Last year, there were 24 West Nile virus cases in New Mexico. Three of them in Doña Ana County.
It’s important that everyone know what West Nile virus is – and how to avoid it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), West Nile virus (WNV) is most commonly transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The mosquitoes get it when they feed on infected birds, and it turn pass it on when they bite humans or other animals.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus. Fortunately, most people infected with West Nile virus don’t get sick, but about 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than one percent of infected people develop serious, sometimes deadly, neurologic illness.
But of that one percent, people 50 years and older face the most risk from West Nile virus. Symptoms usually start from 2 to 14 days after getting bit. West Nile virus symptoms include (in addition to fever) nausea, headache, and muscle aches. In rare cases, West Nile virus causes meningitis or encephalitis. Anyone with symptoms should see their doctor.
The most effective way to avoid West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites. Here’s some ways NMDOH and the CDC recommend to do it:
- Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Read the fine print to see what’s in the product you’re thinking of using. The CDC has found repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection. Make sure you use follow the directions on the product labels.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors. There are days a long sleeve shirt feels like it’s out of the question on a hot day, but any layer of clothing you can put between mosquitos and your skin could be a good thing.
- Be aware of peak mosquito biting hours. Be sure to use repellent and consider wearing protective clothing from dusk to dawn or consider avoiding doing anything outside during these times.
- No screens? No protection! Keep windows and doors closed if not screened. If you leave the doors to your home or windows open, make sure your screens fit tightly and have no holes.
- No standing water. Get rid of anything outside holding water where mosquitoes lay their eggs, such as old tires. Regularly change the water in birdbaths, wading pools and pet water bowls.
For more information about West Nile virus, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, visit the West Nile Virus section of the New Mexico Department of Health website.