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Governor Susana Martinez Urges New Mexicans to Protect Against West Nile Virus

SANTA FE, NM – Today, Governor Susana Martinez and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) urge New Mexicans to take precautions to protect themselves against West Nile Virus. Through 2017 so far, there have been 27 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in New Mexico – and three just in the last month. Fifteen cases are residents of Bernalillo County, 5 are residents of San Juan County, 3 are residents of Doña Ana County, and one each reside in Quay, Roosevelt, Sandoval and Valencia counties. Ages of the patients range from 24 to 82 years of age. Last month, NMDOH reported the death of a 61-year-old in San Juan County infected with West Nile virus. In comparison, there were only six West Nile virus cases in New Mexico in 2016, with one reported death.

“West Nile Virus can be dangerous – and even fatal – but there are important precautions New Mexicans can take to protect themselves and their families,” Governor Martinez said. “Use insect repellent and wear protective clothing where mosquitoes may be active, and if you feel sick, make sure to seek medical care immediately.”

To continue reducing the chances of a mosquito bite that can transmit West Nile virus, NMDOH recommends that people should:

  • Use an approved insect repellent every time they 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, 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.

“West Nile virus can be a health concern anywhere New Mexico until after the first hard frost in your area of the state,” said Department of Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher. “Until colder weather takes hold, take precautions against mosquito bites wherever mosquitoes are active.”

There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. People 50 and older 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.

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.

To further protect yourself against West Nile virus, you can minimize the risk for both human and horse cases 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.

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.

For more information, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, about how to protect against West Nile virus, visit the West Nile Virus section of the NMDOH website.

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