West Nile Virus: what you need to know

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Yesina Benjamin
  • 49th Aeromedi
Recently, the 49th Wing Medical Group Public Health office received reports of 11 cases of the West Nile Virus in Doña Ana County. The risk for Holloman Air Force Base remains low. There are people who are at a higher risk of getting sick from WNV, including those with underlying immune problems and people over 50 years old.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012 was the deadliest year for WNV. In the U.S., it was a reported that 5,674 people were ill with the virus, and of those 5,674, 286 died. In New Mexico, there were 47 cases and zero deaths reported.

The WNV first appeared in New York in 1999 and has steadily spread to the west coast. WNV cycles between birds and mosquitoes but can infect a wide range of both animals and humans. To be transmitted to humans, mosquitoes are usually infected when they feed off of a bird containing the virus. When the mosquito then bites a human, it transmits the virus.

At this time, there are 48 known species of mosquitoes found in New Mexico. Some are potential vectors in the transmission of important human and veterinary disease-causing agents. These diseases include malaria, dog heartworm, Western Equine Encephalomyelitis, Saint Louis Encephalitis and West Nile Virus.

Public Health provides mosquito surveillance for all of Holloman AFB during the mosquito season, April through October. The goal of the program is to prevent mosquito problems before they happen. Mosquito populations are monitored throughout the base by regularly inspecting all bodies of water known to harbor mosquito larvae. Adult mosquito populations are also monitored through the use of special traps located in different locations on base.

Some of the popular locations include Lake Holloman, the outdoor track, the golf course and various areas of base housing. After collection, specimens are sent to an entomologist at the UASF School of Aerospace Medicine for identification.

Mosquito counts at each location are then compared with historical data in order to locate problem areas where control efforts may be escalated. If control efforts are recommended from MDG leadership, Public Health will request the assistance of 49th Civil Engineer Squadron Pest Management.

Here at Holloman AFB, the safety of all base personnel is the primary concern for Public Health. If you have any questions or concerns, please call Public Health at 572-3306.


I've been bitten by a mosquito. Should I be tested for WNV infection?

No. Most mosquitoes are not infected with WNV.

What are the symptoms of WNV?

Most individuals who are infected have no symptoms or may experience mild illness. Symptoms generally occur 5-15 days following the bite of an infected mosquito and can include a fever, headache, rash or swollen glands. In some individuals, particularly the elderly, WNV can cause serious disease that affects the central nervous system. At its most severe, it can cause permanent brain damage and even death. See a physician if you develop any of these symptoms.

How can I reduce my chances of being infected?

1. Stay inside when mosquitoes are most active: at dusk and at dawn.

2. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.

3. Use insect repellent products containing at least 35% DEET (no more than 30% for children).

4. Ensure house windows or doors have screens if going to be left open.

5. Do not allow water to stagnate in old tires, flower pots, trash containers, birdbaths, etc.