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Mosquitoes capable of transmitting Zika found in New Mexico

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The New Mexico Department of Health and New Mexico State University announced Tuesday that a particular species of mosquito capable of transmitting the Zika virus has been identified in Otero and Hidalgo counties.

The Aedes aegypti, also regarded as the yellow fever mosquito, originates from Africa, according to the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida.
This mosquito lives in tropical, subtropical and in some temperate climates. They are the main type of mosquito that spreads Zika, dengue, chikungunya and other viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The NMDOH said this is the first time a species of mosquito capable of transmitting the Zika virus has been found in this area of the state. However, according to the Journal of Medical Entomology, in September 2016, the yellow fever mosquito was documented along much of the southern tier of the United States, including New Mexico, southern California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Florida.
Maps ranging from 1995 to 2004 show that the mosquito capable of transmitting Zika was first reported in Doña Ana county, directly west of Otero County. In another map, ranging from 1995 to 2016, the Journal of Medical Entomology also shows that at least one yellow fever mosquito was reported in Doña Ana, Eddy and Otero counties.
New Mexico Department of Health officials said the Zika virus can be transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes become infected after feeding on a person who has the virus.
Mosquito surveillance in New Mexico’s southern counties is part of an ongoing collaboration between NMDOH and NMSU to map out the range and distribution of both Aedes aegypti and the Asian tiger mosquito, the Aedes albopictus, in the state.

The NMDOH said these recent discoveries bring the total number of counties in the state with mosquitos capable of spreading Zika to eight. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been trapped and identified in Chaves, Doña Ana, Eddy, Sierra, Lea, Luna and now Otero and Hidalgo counties and Aedes albopictus in Roosevelt County.
Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Lynn Gallagher said New Mexico has been fortunate of not having any local mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus.
“Tracking the areas at risk for Zika allows us to prepare and educate New Mexicans about prevention based on where they live,” she said in a news release Tuesday.
Ten cases of Zika virus disease were reported in New Mexico in 2016. In each case, travelers were infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home.
The NMDOH said residents traveling out of the country this summer should be concerned about Zika transmission — particularly women who are pregnant or trying to conceive and their sexual partners — as Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. The CDC maintains a list of countries with active Zika virus transmission on their Zika Virus Travel Information page.
The NMDOH said whether one is traveling abroad or not, the best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites.
To avoid Zika and other viruses spread by mosquitos, NMDOH recommends removing any standing water nearby one’s home, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, staying in air conditioned or areas that use window and door screens, sleeping under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from bites and using insect repellents.
There have been no identified human cases of Zika virus in either Otero or Hidalgo counties.
Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.