By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
An 82-year-old Curry County woman became the third person in New Mexico to die from West Nile Virus, a condition obtained through bites of infected mosquitos.
Officials with the New Mexico Department of Health reported the woman’s death Thursday but were unclear as to when she died.
So far this year there have been 63 confirmed cases of West Nile statewide, about half the amount at this same time last year. Two cases have been confirmed in Curry County — the woman who died and a 56-year-old woman, said Paul Ettestad, doctor of veterinary medicine for the New Mexico Department of Health.
New cases were reported Thursday in Curry, Lea and Roosevelt counties.
“We are getting close to the end of West Nile season, but it doesn’t end until an area’s first frost,” said Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham. “So people still need to take precautions against mosquito bites when they are outside.”
Another Curry County resident, 42-year-old Eric Anaya, says he was diagnosed with the virus on Sept. 9, but the state hasn’t recorded it yet.
Ettestad said that could well be possible, as it can take up to three weeks for doctors to report findings to the state.
Anaya, coughing regularly Thursday afternoon in a phone interview, said he is having problems sleeping and is low on energy, common symptoms of the virus. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle ache and nausea.
“Neck pains … lots of pressure … uncontrollable sweats. You go sleep for about an hour and awake either burning up or freezing to death,” he said.
Antibiotics, Anaya said, have helped little.
“I’ve taken the most powerful stuff they got and it’s not keeping it down,” he said.
If bitten by an infected mosquito, the virus circulates through the blood stream and can enter into the brain, where it kills nerve cells, Ettestad said.
There are two forms of the virus — meningoencephalitis and encepholitis — and those over 50 are more susceptible to its symptoms.
Ettestad said roughly 80 percent of the people who obtain the virus will never know they have it, and will then become immune to it.
Mosquitos don’t typically travel in packs, but Ettestad said they often congregate in lagoons or pools of standing water.
He suggested wearing long-sleeve shirts and long pants, staying indoors during the early morning and evening hours, keeping windows and doors closed and wearing bug spray.
But Anaya said all sprays don’t work as well as advertised.
He said he used spray often and was still bitten by an infected mosquito.
“I don’t want my daughter going through what I go through and I don’t think any parent wants their children obtaining this,” he said.