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Health & Safety: Protection from Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus (Aug 10, 2007)

HEATH AND SAFETY REMINDER - Protection from Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus
It is that time again with the heat and the rains for mosquitoes to appear on campus. This year similar to the last few years, there are numerous reports of human cases of West Nile Virus in the US. The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) news recently noted one in Dona Ana County (link). In addition there have been several news reports ( LC Sun News / alternate-copy) noting that mosquitoes carrying the disease have been found in Dona Ana County. (Other web LINKS: NMDOH Mosquito Surveillance and City of Las Cruces - West Nile Mosquitoes)

As such, Environmental Health and Safety wishes to remind all the NMSU Community of the potential risk of this mosquito-borne disease.  We are providing this information to help ensure that the campus community is informed on the risks, NMSU precautions, and recommended personal protection.

West Nile Virus
The West Nile Virus can cause serious disease which affects the central nervous system.  The virus can have notable affects on humans, horses and wild birds.  Persons over 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease.  At its extreme in humans, it can cause brain damage via meningitis or encephalitis, and death. (More on WNV diseases)

There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus infection. It may take a mild form, however in more severe cases, intensive supportive therapy is required. The severe cases require therapy often involving hospitalization, airway management, intravenous fluid support, treatment to prevent secondary infections such as pneumonia, and good nursing care. (more on treatment)

A West Nile viral infection is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes. The mosquito is typically infected by biting a bird that carries the virus in its blood. The West Nile virus is not transmitted person to person or animal to human.

The symptoms of infection by the West Nile virus occur generally 5 to 15 days after being bitten by infected mosquitos. The symptoms range from a mild onset with slight fever, headache, swollen glands, and rash to severe rapid onset with a high fever, strong headache, stiff neck, disorientation, muscle weakness, coma and death. CDC estimated that about 20% of people who become infected will develop West Nile fever. While the illness can be as short as a few days, even healthy people have reported being sick for several weeks. (more on symptoms)

Further information and guidance on the West Nile Virus is available via the following web links:

Campus Activities to Minimize Mosquito Population
Obviously the campus doesn’t have rivers, marshes or wetland areas, but we have ponds and other moist locations where mosquitos can breed and multiple. NMSU has sprayed with a larvicide and is currently sampling the campus areas for mosquitos. The OFS Grounds department will fog selected locations from the survey. The fogging operations will be performed at off times to minimize any interference with campus activities. Announcements on the fogging locations, times, and materials will be distributed to the University Community by the OFS Grounds department.

Personal Activities to Minimize Exposure to Mosquitoes
The following provides recommendations that you can do to protect yourself and others from mosquitoes and the West Nile Virus infection.



  • Avoid outside activity at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

  • Control mosquitoes from breeding by eliminating standing water around buildings and home.
  • Clean out outside drains, canales and gutters so water doesn’t accumulate and serve as mosquito breeding areas.
  • Maintain drainage ditches so they do not clog and breed mosquitoes.

  • Eliminate uncovered refuse containers and junk piles where water can collect and mosquitoes breed.

  • Make sure that doors and windows have tight fitting screens in good repair and are closed.
  • Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts and apply insect repellent when outside.

  • Only adults should apply repellent on children.
  • Only apply repellent to exposed skin and clothing. Do not use repellent under clothing.
  • Do not apply repellent over cuts, wounds, sunburn or irritated skin.
  • Spray repellent on your hands in order to apply it to your face. Don’t apply repellent to your eyes or mouth.
  • Wash off repellent daily and reapply as needed.

  • For longest lasting protection from mosquito bites, use insect repellent products with no more than 20 -35% DEET for adults (less than 10% for children 2 to 12 years old).
  • If you don’t use DEET, products containing soybean oil or eucalyptus oil have been found to be effective, but must be applied more often because they do not repel mosquitoes for as long as DEET.
  • Products containing Skin so Soft or citronella were not shown to be as effective, lasting on average about 20 minutes or less.
  • This information and other web resources are posted on the NMSU safety website (, the NMDOH website and CDC website.

    NMSU department are asked to print and post this memo or pdf copy for employee and student information.

    Thank you

    David Shearer, Industrial Hygienist
    Environmental Health & Safety

    News update Sept 7, 2007 Death from West Nile Virus, Dona Ana Country

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