SANTA FE, NM (KTSM) - A species of mosquito that can transmit the Zika virus has been identified in Doña Ana County.
The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) report this is the first time this season, and the second consecutive year, the mosquito species has been found in this part of the state.
The Zika virus can be transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites.
“We’ve been fortunate to this point that we have not had local mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus in New Mexico," Lynn Gallagher, New Mexico Department of Health Cabinet Secretary said. "The greatest risk comes to those traveling to countries with active Zika virus transmission. Returning travelers infected with Zika virus while abroad can spread the virus to other people through mosquito bites.”
Ten cases of Zika virus disease were reported in New Mexico in 2016. In each case, travelers were infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home.
The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitos typically lay eggs in and near standing water in containers like old tires, buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases.
“Last year, the monsoon rains didn’t come until late July and August so populations of these mosquitoes didn’t really start to appear until after the rains started,” NMDOH Veterinarian Dr. Paul Ettestad said. “With early rainfall and warm temperatures this year, the mosquitoes are out sooner, so precautions to avoid mosquito bites and to decrease mosquito breeding habitat, especially small containers with standing water in them around the home, should be started now.”
To avoid Zika and other viruses spread by mosquitos, like West Nile Virus, NMDOH recommends the following prevention measures:
- Look around your home and remove any standing water that may be found in small containers and then scrub out the containers to remove any mosquito eggs. The small squiggly creatures found in standing water are mosquito larvae that will turn into adult mosquitoes in a few days.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for children and pregnant or breast-feeding women.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.