With more than 6,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, New Mexico officials are now seeing the start of another infectious disease in the state: West Nile virus.
The New Mexico Department of Health in a news release on Thursday announced the state’s first human case of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus in a man in his 50s from San Juan County.
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“He was diagnosed with the neuroinvasive form of the disease, which has required hospitalization, and he is now recovering,” said health officials. No other details were provided.
West Nile virus — which was first reported in the U.S. in 1999 — is typically spread by infected mosquitoes. Though side effects can be severe, most people who are infected experience little to no symptoms and fully recover.
A small percentage of people infected with West Nile virus — roughly 1 in 5 — develop a fever and may additionally experience headaches, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash, among other side effects. Even rarer, about 1 in 150 people who are infected with the mosquito-linked ailment can develop a serious illness, such as inflammation of the spinal cord or brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Mayo Clinic warns people who are older, as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions, are more susceptible to the virus.
There is no vaccine or treatment to prevent the disease, though there are preventive steps to lessen the risk of being bitten by a mosquito in the first place. For instance, the New Mexico Department of Health advises to:
- Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside and follow the instructions on the label.
- Regularly drain standing water and scrub containers, including empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters, saucers under potted plants, birdbaths, wading pools, and pets’ water bowls. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water.
- Make sure rain barrels are tightly screened.
- 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.
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“At a time where all of us are focused on COVID-19, we still must remember common seasonal viruses like West Nile,” said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel in a statement. “West Nile virus can be a serious health concern anywhere in New Mexico where mosquitoes are active.”
Last year, New Mexico saw 40 cases of West Nile virus, including four virus-related fatalities, according to officials.