The New Mexico Department of Health reports a 45-year-old woman from San Juan County has been diagnosed with West Nile Virus infection. She was not hospitalized and is at home recovering. This is the first human case of West Nile virus infection identified in New Mexico this year.
“In people, West Nile virus can cause flu-like symptoms such as fever, nausea, headache, and muscle aches,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “If someone feels they have a flu-like illness and are feeling sick, they should see their health care provider. People older than 50 are at most risk for serious disease from West Nile virus and should be especially careful to avoid mosquito bites.”
Most people who become infected with West Nile virus have either no symptoms or have only mild symptoms. However a small percentage of people infected can develop meningitis or encephalitis. Meningitis is an infection of the lining around the brain, while encephalitis is an infection of the brain itself. Both of these can be fatal, especially in the elderly.
“With the continuing rainfall, mosquito populations can be expected to increase and there is the potential for West Nile cases in both people and horses throughout the state,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the Department’s public health veterinarian. New Mexico typically sees most of its West Nile virus cases in August and September.
Two horses have also been diagnosed with West Nile virus infection this year, one from Bernalillo County and one from San Juan County. Both horses had to be euthanized due to the seriousness of their illness.
You can minimize the risk for both human and horse cases of West Nile virus by eliminating water-holding containers where mosquitoes lay their eggs, such as old tires, as well as regularly changing the water in birdbaths, wading pools, and pets’ water bowls. Make sure rain barrels are tightly screened.
In 2013, the New Mexico Department of Health identified 38 cases of West Nile Virus infection in people, including 3 fatalities.