San Juan County man is first West Nile virus patient in New Mexico this year

Man in his 50s developed symptoms of virus in late April

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — It seems residents of San Juan County have another virus with which to contend.

With the COVID-19 virus still making its presence felt in a major way, the first human case this season of West Nile virus in the county — and the state — has been reported by the New Mexico Department of Health. State officials says the case presented on April 27, and county officials were notified about it on May 20.

A press release from the state says the victim is a San Juan County man in his 50s who was diagnosed with the neuroinvasive form of the disease. The man had to be hospitalized, but is recovering from his illness.

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San Juan County reported that mosquitoes carrying the virus were discovered here on Aug. 5 last year, meaning the virus made a much earlier first appearance this year. According to data posted on the state health department website, San Juan County wound up leading the state last year with 16 confirmed human cases — almost three times the number of any other county in the state.

The state health department says 40 cases of West Nile were reported in the state in 2019, and four of them were fatal. In 2018, there were seven cases with one fatality. New Mexico has recorded at least one case of the virus every year since it was introduced to the state in 2003, state officials say.

The county's vector control staff is working with state health officials to identify and treat areas of concern, the release states. County workers began regular treatment for mosquito larva on April 13 and treatment for adult mosquitoes on May 13.

The vector control staff will begin trapping and testing mosquitoes for the virus next week, according to the county's release, and will continue its efforts to reduce the overall mosquito population. The county says vector control targets problem areas on public property and areas on private property if it receives a request and permission from the owner.

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Meanwhile, county officials say there are ways residents can reduce their exposure to West Nile. Those include property owners eliminating places for mosquitoes to breed by draining standing water in tires and empty buckets, as well as places where irrigation water may collect.

Residents who go outside at dawn or dusk are advised to use DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 insect repellent on their exposed skin and permethrin on their clothing. While inside, they are advised to keep their windows and doors closed if they are not screened, and screens must be tight, with no holes, to be effective.

Common symptoms of the virus include fever, nausea, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and skin rash. Those age 60 or older are considered the most at risk for complications from the virus.

Property owners can request a mosquito treatment on their land by calling 505-334-6775. The county's vector control staff treats only unincorporated areas of the county and areas in the city of Aztec, as provided for by contract.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or