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Albuquerque mosquitoes test positive for West Nile virus

A female mosquito draws blood in the Alameda Open Space bosque in Albuquerque in 2016. The city’s Environmental Health Department announced Wednesday that it had collected West Nile virus-positive mosquitoes in Bernalillo County. (Journal File Photo)

Mosquitoes that tested positive for West Nile virus were collected in Bernalillo County in the past week, city of Albuquerque and county officials announced Wednesday.

The mosquitoes were the first West Nile virus-positive insects identified in the county this year.

Mark DiMenna, deputy director for the city’s Environmental Health Department, said the city collects and tests mosquitoes every week at more than 20 sites in Albuquerque.

“We usually start testing around the second week in May. Almost every year we collect mosquitoes that test positive (for West Nile virus), but we don’t get a lot of cases of infected people,” DiMenna said. “The infection rate is really low in mosquitoes.”

DiMenna said that New Mexico residents shouldn’t avoid the outdoors because of the mosquitoes, but should follow precautions to avoid bites. The city recommends using insect repellent, avoiding standing water, and keeping windows and doors closed.

“It’s not about fear. It’s about mitigating risk and being prepared,” DiMenna said.

The department also advises residents to go to the doctor if they show symptoms of West Nile virus, which include fever, nausea and muscle aches.

Mosquito populations have been high this spring and summer in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County because of increased runoff in the Rio Grande and regular rain.

“We had more mosquitoes this June than in the last two years combined,” DiMenna said. “We knew it was going to be bad, just not this apocalyptic.”

The city and county use a mosquito control program to reduce insect populations. Residents can call 311 to report mosquito problems.

“Once we find areas where mosquitoes test positive, we really focus our larvae control efforts in those hot spots,” DiMenna said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States. There are no preventative vaccines or medications to treat West Nile virus in humans. About one in every 150 people who contract the virus develop serious illnesses such as meningitis or encephalitis, according to the CDC.

As of last week, 34 states had reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds or mosquitoes in 2019.

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