Best Way to Prevent Zika Virus is to Prevent Mosquito Bites
SANTA FE, NM – The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) announced today that Aedes aegypti, has been identified in Otero and Hidalgo Counties. This is the first time a species of mosquito that can transmit Zika virus has been found in this part of the state. There have been no identified human cases of Zika virus in either county to date.
Zika virus can be transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.
Mosquito surveillance in New Mexico’s southern counties is part of an ongoing collaboration between NMDOH and NMSU to map out the range and distribution of both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the state. These recent discoveries bring the total number of counties in the state with mosquitos capable of spreading Zika to eight. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been trapped and identified in Doña Ana, Eddy, Chaves, Sierra, Lea, Luna, and now Otero and Hidalgo counties and Aedes albopictus in Roosevelt County.
“While we have been fortunate to this point that we have not had local mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus in New Mexico, tracking the areas at risk for Zika allows us to prepare and educate New Mexicans about prevention based on where they live,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Lynn Gallagher.
Ten cases of Zika virus disease were reported in New Mexico in 2016. In each case, travelers were infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home. Residents traveling out of the country this summer should be concerned about Zika transmission – particularly women who are pregnant or trying to conceive and their sexual partners – as Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a list of countries with active Zika virus transmission on their Zika Virus Travel Information page.
Regardless of whether you are traveling abroad, the best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitos typically lay eggs in and near standing water in containers like old tires, buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. Certain species of mosquitos, particularly the Aedes albopictus, prefer to bite people, so they tend to live indoors and outdoors near people. They are aggressive daytime biters, but they can also bite at night.
To avoid Zika and other viruses like West Nile Virus, which are spread by mosquitos, NMDOH recommends the following steps:
- Look around your home and remove any standing water that may be found in flower pots, bird baths, old tires, bottle caps or other small containers, and then scrub out the containers to remove any mosquito eggs. The small squiggly creatures you may see in the standing water are mosquito larvae that will turn into adult mosquitoes in a few days.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for children and pregnant or breast-feeding women.