An 83-year-old Curry County man has died from a West Nile virus infection, according to a New Mexico Department of Health news release.
It is the first death attributed to West Nile in Curry County since 2004.
The man, who was not identified by the state health department, suffered from encephalitis, “the more severe clinical form of the disease,” and had been hospitalized, the release stated.
A 66-year-old Curry County woman has also been confirmed with West Nile, but her case is “less severe” and she has not been hospitalized, the release said.
The man’s death was the first attributed to West Nile in New Mexico this year, officials said.
“We extend our sympathy to this man’s family and friends,” Secretary of Health Retta Ward said in the release. “We all need to avoid mosquito bites as best as possible, especially people older than 60, who are most at risk …”
Local funerals homes said they had no reports of a death related to West Nile. A call to Plains Regional Medical Center was not returned.
David Morgan, a media relations officer for the state department of health, said Health Information Privacy Act of 1999 rules prevent his office from releasing the name and date of death of the victim.
Dr. Paul Ettestad, the Department’s public health veterinarian, said the man died in the past week.
Ettestad said the victims would have contracted West Nile in early July and started showing symptoms by mid-July.
“Mosquito populations are high throughout the state due to the large amounts of rainfall; and everyone should assume that some of these mosquitoes are carrying West Nile Virus,” Ettestad said.
West Nile was first reported in New Mexico in 2003, with 25 cases reported in Curry County. The numbers of cases per year has dropped off dramatically since then, which just six cases reported from 2005-2011.
More from the news release:
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 60 are at most risk for serious disease from West Nile Virus.
To protect yourself from West Nile:
- 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.
We will post more information as it becomes available.
Human West Nile cases reported in Curry County by year:
Source: New Mexico Department of Health