LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The New Mexico Department of Health says a species of mosquitoes that can transmit the Zika virus has been identified in Doña Ana County. It’s the first time this season – and the second year in a row – that these specific species have been found in the southern part of the state.
Dr. Alfredo Vigil is a former secretary for the department. He says threats to public health funding and education in today’s growing anti-science political climate are the greatest hindrances to preventing Zika and other outbreaks, and it’s important for people to protect themselves.
“As much as possible, people should eliminate standing water,” he says. “Secondly, people should use insect repellent in those areas where this is a risk. There’ve been governmental efforts to spray high-risk areas to try to decrease mosquito proliferation.”
He says folks in southern New Mexico – especially mothers and women who are pregnant – would be wise to take precautions. Zika’s worst effects are to children and the unborn. It can be carried and transmitted by human adults without symptoms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and federal health departments have done well at predicting where the disease-carrying insects will be, Vigil says. However, as a mechanism of evolution, it’s possible they can acclimate to more diverse environments such as southern New Mexico, where there is plenty of space for outdoor recreation in peak mosquito season.
“It’s not a surprise that more mosquitoes have been found, and frankly it won’t be a surprise when a few cases of actual human infection are detected,” he adds.
Vigil says mosquitoes that have caused the widest concern for spreading Zika have traditionally stayed closer to warmer and more humid climates, but he warns not to underestimate their pursuit of their primary food source, human blood.Like this story? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get more of our best original news.