New mexico health officials announced today that a 12-year-old girl from Valencia County has been diagnosed with West Nile virus infection. She was hospitalized with neuroinvasive disease, the more serious form of the illness, but is now at home recovering. This is the first human case of West Nile virus infection identified in New Mexico this year.

West Nile virus
Culex quinquefasciatus

To reduce the chances of a mosquito bite that can transmit West Nile virus, people should

  • Use an approved insect repellent every time they go outside and follow the instructions on the label. Among theEPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol.
  • 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 stagnant water.
  • 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.

“With the large amount of extensive rainfall we have received recently, mosquito populations can be expected to increase and there is the potential for West Nile virus 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 but can see cases in May and June through October.

Symptoms of the milder form of illness, West Nile fever, can include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. People with West Nile fever typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for weeks to months. Symptoms of West Nile neuroinvasive disease can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. People over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected with the virus. If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider.

In 2014, the New Mexico Department of Health identified 24 cases of West Nile Virus infection in people with one fatality. Five horses were diagnosed with West Nile virus infection in 2014. Four of the five had to be euthanized due to the seriousness of their illness.