New Mexico public health official are warning of elevated concerns over a West Nile Virus (WNV) outbreak and a new incident of rabies involving school children. Both incidents are cause for concern and officials are advising residents of the state to be aware of the dangers that both diseases pose to the public.

Recent heavy rains have contributed to the rise in West Nile Virus cases this month, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. The number of WNV cases doubled since significant rains began falling in late September. Ten new cases have been reported in October, bringing the year's total WNV cases to 20. Two victims of WNV have died in New Mexico so far this year.

A New Mexico Department of Health official says while Aug. and Sept. are peak times for WNV, they warn that disease-carrying mosquitoes can survive until the first hard frost.

 

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In addition to the new human cases of the virus this month, a horse from Otero County has tested positive for the disease.

The latest 10 human victims have been identified from across the state. They include two residents of Lea County, two from San Juan County, two from Bernalillo County, two from Roosevelt County, one from Curry County and one from Quay County.

A Department of Health spokesman in Santa Fe says severe dry conditions across the state had minimized the dangers posed by the virus this year until statewide heavy rains and flooding in mid September. As pond and lake levels began to rise and standing water became a problem in both rural and urban areas, concerns over the virus have increased.

Among the latest 10 cases reported are five women ranging in age from 19 to 76 and four men ranging in age from 26 to 82. The last victim reported with the virus is a 15 year old boy.

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease of the encephalitis group and was first detected in the U.S. in 1999.

"People infected may have some fever and body aches and they just won't feel well once infected with the virus," says Dr. Cedric Spak, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor Dallas Hospital. "Someone with the more simple form of the virus, or West Nile Fever, may miss a few days work or school but should recover quickly."