SANTA FE – The New Mexico Department of Health issued a warning about mosquitoes in Luna County on Friday, but also made clear there are no confirmed cases of the Zika virus this year in New Mexico.
The Department of Health, in collaboration with New Mexico State University, announced that the mosquito species Aedes aegypti has been found in Luna County, which means, per a statement by the DOH, “residents traveling out of the country where Zika virus is present could be infected with the virus. If no precautions are taken by travelers when they come home, they could get bit by this specific type of mosquito and spread the virus locally.”
Matthew Lee, a Medical Entomologist who has contracted with the City of Deming since 2003, said the presence of this species in the county is not a new development. “It’s been there since 2003,” he said, referring to Aedes aegypti, which he said he detected and reported 14 years ago. “What’s new is that the state finally recognized it. Until we spend $90,000 and NMSU finds it, it’s not there.”
Lee was referring to a grant from the Department of Health funding research and mapping of the distribution of mosquito species around the state. One of the purposes is to inform the public about species capable of spreading Zika, which can cause fevers, joint pain, and rashes in infected humans. The virus can also be spread sexually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitalizations and fatalities from Zika are rare, but infection during a pregnancy can lead to birth defects.
At least ten New Mexico counties harbor species of mosquito capable of transmitting the disease.
Because Zika can be picked up during travel, the CDC maintains an online world map highlighting areas at risk for infection. Their map shows most of Mexico and Central and South America as presenting risks of Zika infection. The map can be viewed at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/world-map-areas-with-zika.