News Column

What to Do About West Nile Virus

August 14, 2013
The West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes (photo: public domain)

It's mosquito season in New Mexico and officials are warning residents to take caution against the little nuisances and the possible spread of West Nile Virus.

The state reported its first human incidence of West Nile Virus last week when a 13-year-old boy from San Juan County was diagnosed with the infection.

According to a New Mexico Department of Health press release, the boy was hospitalized for a short time, but is now home recovering.

Marcus Brice, chief code compliance officer for the City of Clovis, said the city will not be testing mosquitoes for West Nile Virus this year due to a lack of funding.

"Basically, they know that West Nile is present in the state," he said. "So the biggest thing they're encouraging people to do is to avoid contact as much as possible."

It is hard to predict whether the state will see an increase in West Nile cases this year, but it is possible, according to Paul Ettestad, state public health veterinarian.

"I know we've gotten lots of rain recently and that may breed quite a few mosquitoes," he said. "There will be quite a few that carry it."

Symptoms of West Nile Virus include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches, and in rare cases, can infect the brain and cause meningitis or encephalitis. Complications from the virus can be worse in adults over 60 years of age.

"The bottom line is, you get it from a mosquito bite," Ettestad said.

He recommends doing everything possible to keep mosquitoes from breeding on your property, as well as preventing them from biting in the first place by using insect repellent and wearing light, protective clothing.

Ettestad said anyone suspecting they may be infected can be evaluated by their doctor, though there is no antibiotic or cure since it is a type of fever. He also said in most cases, people will get over the virus on their own.

"There's a vaccine for horses," he said. "So make sure your horse has been vaccinated."

To prevent against West Nile Virus:

-- Use insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors.

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

-- Take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing or avoid outdoor activities from dusk to dawn, which are peak biting times for mosquitoes.

-- Eliminate water-holding containers where mosquitoes lay their eggs, such as old tires. Regularly change the water in birdbaths, wading pools and pet water bowls.

-- 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.

Source: New Mexico Department of Health


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Source: Copyright Clovis News Journal (NM) 2013

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