West Nile discovered in Curry County

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Francis Warner, a city of Clovis Vector Control Department employee, performed a West Nile test Thursday that returned a negative result.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Health officials are urging residents to take precautions due to the detection of the West Nile virus in Curry County.

The virus has been blamed for the deaths of two New Mexico residents and for illness in more than two dozen others statewide, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

The deaths of a 76-year-old McKinley County man and a 80-year-old Dona Ana County man have been confirmed as West Nile related, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.

Clovis Vector Control Officer Francis Warner said although there are fewer mosquitos this year, larva in three pools of water have tested positive for West Nile.

Warner said he tested more than 4,000 insects last year without a positive result.

“That just means that the virus is here and we know it’s here and people need to take precautions,” he said.

There has been one non-fatal confirmed case of the virus in Curry County, Warner said, a little boy who was hospitalized but recovered.

Roosevelt County has also confirmed one non-fatal case.

There have been 27 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne disease this year throughout the state.

Warner said he surveys mosquito traps throughout the city to monitor the presence of the virus and his crews spray when weather conditions allow.

Residents should take precautions and work to limit mosquito populations in the interest of lessening the risk, he said.

Eliminating standing water and keeping weeds trimmed in yards can help curb mosquito reproduction.

Wearing long sleeves and pants and using insect repellents can help reduce exposure to mosquitos and the virus.

“It’s just one of (those) things where people are going to have to take precautions and protect themselves,” he said.

“We’re going to do what we can to keep mosquito numbers down, but there’s no way to eliminate them.”

West Nile Virus
A mosquito-borne disease that was first seen in North America in 1999. The most serious manifestation of West Nile Virus infection is fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in humans and horses, as well as mortality in certain domestic and wild birds.

New Mexico West Nile cases:
2006 — Eight cases with one fatality
2005 — 33 cases with two fatalities
2004 — 88 cases with four fatalities
2003 — 209 cases with four fatalities

To avoid West Nile infection
Use insect repellent
Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active
Put screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out
Empty or eliminate containers holding water where mosquitoes lay their eggs such as tires, flower pots and buckets

Residents can call Clovis Vector Control for information and literature regarding mosquitoes and the West Nile Virus at 763-9643.