The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) announced that Aedes albopictus, a species of mosquito that can transmit Zika virus, has been identified in Roosevelt County. This is the first time this mosquito species has been identified in this county.
Mosquito surveillance in many of New Mexico’s southern counties is part of a NMSU project funded by the New Mexico Department of Health to map out the range and distribution of both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the state. Both mosquito species are capable of transmitting Zika virus to people. The ongoing project has not yet sampled all of the counties in the southern half of the state.
“This collaboration with NMSU will help us get a clear picture of the areas at risk of Zika transmission in the state,” said New Mexico Secretary of Health Lynn Gallagher. “Knowing where these species of mosquitoes are allows us to focus Zika education and prevention in the places that need it most.”
To date, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been trapped and identified this summer in Doña Ana, Eddy, and Chaves counties and now Aedes albopictus in Roosevelt County. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes have also been reported from Otero County and Aedes albopictus from Curry County in past years.
Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The Aedes aegypti mosquito has been the main driver of the Zika virus outbreak to date, but Aedes albopictus can also transmit the disease, so similar precautions need to be taken. 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. They typically lay eggs in and near standing water in containers like buckets, bowls, animal dishes, flower pots and vases. They prefer to bite people, so they tend to live indoors and outdoors near people. They are aggressive daytime biters, but they can also bite at night.
To avoid Zika and other viruses like West Nile Virus, which are spread by mosquitos, take the following steps:
• Look around your home and remove any standing water that may be found in flower pots, bird baths, old tires, toys left outside, etc. and then scrub out the containers to remove any mosquito eggs. The small squiggly creatures you may see in the standing water are mosquito larvae that will turn into adult mosquitoes in a few days.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
• Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
• Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
• 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 breastfeeding women.
There have been four travel-related cases of Zika confirmed in New Mexico.
For more information about Zika virus, visit nmhealth.org/about/erd/ideb/zdp/zika/ and cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/index.html.