First 2020 Human West Nile Virus Case in New Mexico

The first person in 2020 to contract West Nile Virus in New Mexico has been announced by the New Mexico Department of Health.
By on 05/22/2020 11:15 AM

Source: MedicineNet Health News

The first person in 2020 to contract West Nile Virus in New Mexico has been announced by the New Mexico Department of Health.

A 58-year-old man from San Juan County in the extreme northwestern corner of New Mexico has survived the illness after being hospitalized with West Nile virus neuroinvasive disease (WNND).

“At a time where all of us are focused on COVID-19, we still must remember common seasonal viruses like West Nile,” said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel. “West Nile virus can be a serious health concern anywhere in New Mexico where mosquitos are active.”

West Nile virus can cause abnormalities in several brain areas, and can cause the surface covering of the brain to become inflamed in a condition known as meningitis, said MedicineNet medical author Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP. It can also cause deeper brain swelling known as encephalitis.

Severe neuroinvasive disease is rare in people infected with West Nile virus, Dr. Gompf said, adding that about one in 150 infected people develops severe WNND. This is more common in people over age 50.

West Nile virus, a microbe carried by mosquitos, has been more common in New Mexico recently, the state health department said. Last year 40 human cases were identified, leading to four deaths. The first case was identified in early August.

In 2019, 47 states reported West Nile Virus, as well as the District of Columbia, according to the CDC, totaling 917 reported cases. Of those infected, 66% developed WNND. However, Dr. Gompf says most infected people have only mild symptoms or none at all, and these cases are typically not reported.

According to Dr. Gompf, mild or symptom-free infections account for eight out of 10 cases.

Mild symptoms are similar to those of the flu, including:

Fatigue may last for months, according to the CDC. But people with mild symptoms usually make a complete recovery.

When to Seek Emergency Help

More serious infections cause neuroinvasive disease such as meningitis and encephalitis. If you develop signs of either, seek medical help right away.

Meningitis is marked by:

Encephalitis is marked by:

Long-term effects of West Nile virus can include memory loss, depression, irritability, difficulty walking, muscle weakness, joint pain, fatigue, and insomnia.

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