West Nile virus caused Farmington resident's death
A 61-year-old Farmington man was the first person to die of the illness in New Mexico this year
FARMINGTON — A 61-year-old Farmington resident has died of West Nile virus, according to press releases from the city of Farmington and the New Mexico Department of Health.
This is the first human case of the virus in the county this year, and the first fatality statewide this year, according to the press releases. The man's identity has not been released and it is unknown where he contracted the virus, according to the city's press release.
In addition to the Farmington man, four Bernalillo County residents have been hospitalized recently with West Nile virus. There have been seven cases statewide this year, according to the Department of Health. The Bernalillo County residents ranged in age from 57 years old to 75 years old. They have all been released from hospitals.
The department of health anticipates that mosquito populations will increase in the upcoming weeks due to the monsoon season. With the increased mosquito populations, there could be more cases of West Nile virus in both humans and horses.
According to the press release, the state usually sees most of its West Nile virus cases in August and September. However, cases have been reported throughout the fall until the first hard frost.
West Nile Virus is contracted when people are bitten by mosquitoes that carry the virus. Symptoms usually appear within two weeks of being bitten, according to the department of health.
Most people who contract the virus recover on their own, according to the department of health. Symptoms include head ache, fever and body aches. In more severe — or neuroinvasive — cases, the virus can affect the central nervous system. Symptoms can include high fevers, stiff neck, muscle weakness, disorientation and inflammation of the brain, according to the department of health.
There are no medications or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus in humans. A vaccine is available for horses, and the department of health encourages horse owners to have their equines vaccinated.
People who suspect they may have contracted the disease should contact a doctor, according to the state's press release.
There were six cases of the illness last year. All of the people had neuroinvasive West Nile virus, and one of them died, according to the department of health.
Local cities and San Juan County have mosquito control programs that include spraying at night. The city also treats standing water, which can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Farmington is encouraging residents to use insect repellent when they go outside. The press release states that the repellent should be EPA-approved and lists DEET, picaridan, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol as ingredients people should look for in repellents.
The city is also asking people to regularly drain standing water, including collection cans, tires, buckets, rain gutters and saucers under potted plants.
People who go outside during the evening or early morning when mosquitoes are most active should wear long sleeves and pants, according to the city press release.
The city is also encouraging residents to make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering houses.
The New Mexico Department of Health can be reached at 505-827-0006. Information about West Nile virus can be found at nmhealth.org.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.