New Mexico Announces Six West Nile Cases

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The New Mexico Department of Health announced today that there have been seven cases of West Nile Virus in six counties so far this year. Cases are a 64-year-old man from Dona Ana County, a 55-year-old man from Valencia County, a 76-year-old man from Chaves County, a 9-year-old boy from Sierra County and a 26-year-old man from San Juan County. A 48-year-old man from Bernalillo County is hospitalized with encephalitis. He became sick in early September. The other cases have recovered, and there have been no deaths.

The Department of Health also confirmed that a horse from Chaves County tested positive for West Nile Virus. The Department announced in August the first human case of West Nile Virus in a 50-year-old man from Valencia County.

Paul Ettestad, the public health veterinarian for the Department of Health, said most cases of West Nile Virus infection occur from July through the first hard freeze of the season and residents still need to take precautions, such as using a repellent when they are outdoors.

"New Mexico is a great place to enjoy outdoor activities, but everyone needs to be aware that mosquito bites can lead to illness," Ettestad said. "West Nile Virus is one of the few diseases where people can take a few simple precautions and be protected."

Common West Nile Virus symptoms are fever, nausea, headache, and muscle aches. In rare cases, West Nile Virus can cause meningitis or encephalitis. If someone has these symptoms, they should see their health care provider. People older than 50 are at most risk for serious disease from West Nile Virus.

To protect yourself from West Nile Virus infection:

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• Use insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 for use on skin, and permethrin for use on clothing. Always follow label directions when using insect repellents.

• When weather permits, wear protective clothing such as loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.

• The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for mosquitoes. Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing, or avoid outdoor activities during these times.

• Eliminate water-holding containers where mosquitoes lay their eggs, such as old tires, and regularly change the water in birdbaths, wading pools and pet water bowls. Make sure rain barrels are tightly screened.

• Keep windows and doors closed if not screened. If you leave your house doors or windows open, make sure they have screens that fit tightly and have no holes.

• Vaccinate your horses to protect them from West Nile Virus and Western Equine Encephalitis, which is also carried by mosquitoes.

In 2007, New Mexico had 60 human cases of West Nile Virus with three fatalities.

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