St. Louis Encephalitis Virus found in mosquitoes in East El Paso

The Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed on Saturday that State officials have identified the first pools of mosquitoes to test positive for the St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) virus in east El Paso.

“Vulnerable populations for COVID-19 are some of the same individuals who could be affected greatly by diseases from a mosquito bite,” said Angela Mora, Director of Public Health. “We need to be vigilant and proactive in order to prevent mosquito breeding and mosquito bites. With this finding, it is important that people remove standing water around homes and protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

The SLE virus was found in a group of mosquitoes collected from traps set by the Environmental Services Department- Vector Control in the 79936 zip code – the area defined by Lee Trevino in the west, Montana on the north, Loop 375 in the east and I-10 as the southern boundary.

Public Health officials and Environmental Services-Vector Control urge the public to take precautions and protect themselves from bites by mosquitoes.

Officials will continue monitoring and testing mosquitoes for the SLE virus. Similar to the West Nile virus, birds are the reservoir host once exposed to a mosquito with SLE. Humans are a dead-end host and are unable to infect other humans through casual contact.

Severe illness can occur in people of any age; however, people older than 60 years of age are at greater risk.

Symptoms are also similar to West Nile and include the following:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Neck Stiffness
  • Stupor
  • Disorientation
  • Numbness
  • Coma
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Vision Loss
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Paralysis

El Pasoans can also help “fight the bite” by using the following prevention methods:

  • DEET – Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection. To optimize safety and effectiveness, repellents should be used according to the label instructions.
  • DRESS – When weather permits, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA- registered repellent will give extra protection. Don’t apply repellents containing permethrin directly to skin. Rather, spray permethrin-containing products only on clothing.
  • DUSK & DAWN – Although mosquitoes can be active throughout the day, residents should take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours (from dusk to dawn) or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times. Use repellent and protective clothing during this time.
  • DRAIN – Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around and outside your home by empting standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths on a regular basis. You can also mosquito-proof your home by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

Residents can report mosquito breeding and standing water by calling 3-1-1. For more information visit under the Be Climate Ready tab.

For more info on battling mosquitoes, click here; for our previous coverage of mosquitoes, click here.