The City of El Paso Department of Public Health announced Monday that it has confirmed the first local case of West Nile virus (WNV) in a middle-aged male who resides in the 79927 zip code. The individual has underlying medical conditions and is currently hospitalized and recovering.

Culex mosquito
Culex quinquefasciatus

El Paso County had 16 WNV cases in 2013, with the first confirmed last August. Two WNV associated deaths occurred last year. El Paso last saw a confirmed case of WNV in November 2013.

“Historically for El Paso, August is the month in which first cases appear in our region. Continued rain and warm weather is ideal for mosquito breeding,” said Fernando Gonzalez, Lead Epidemiologist.

Humans contract West Nile when they are bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus. When people are infected with West Nile, the virus will affect them one of three ways. West Nile neuroinvasive disease is the most serious type, infecting the brain and spinal cord. Neuroinvasive disease can lead to death, paralysis and brain damage. The milder viral infection is West Nile fever, in which people experience flu-like symptoms. The majority of people who contract West Nile will be asymptomatic, which means they show no symptoms. These cases are typically detected through blood donations or in the course of other routine medical tests.

About 90 percent of all cases are asymptomatic, while about 10 percent will develop West Nile fever. Only a very small number of infected individuals will show the serious symptoms associated with the neuroinvasive disease. Residents who are 65 years old and older are at higher risk for complications, but everyone is at risk for infection.