By Frank Ambriz
The spread of West Nile virus continues to be a concern for residents of El Paso County as the El Paso Department of Public Health confirmed three new cases of disease on Oct. 3, including one that led to a death.
The public health department confirmed that an 84-year-old man died as a result of the disease. Two other cases of the virus were also confirmed, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 13 for this year.
One of the confirmed cases includes upper valley resident Jessica Lynne Drake’s 51-year-old father.
“He pretty much confirmed that he has it (West Nile virus) to me today (Oct. 3),” said Drake.
Like many who contract the virus, Drake’s father did not initially show any symptoms. When he did begin to display symptoms, they were quick and severe.
“He was perfectly fine. He was doing his normal routine,” said Drake. “Come Friday he seemed a little sluggish but not really bad. When we came to see him Sunday… he was bad… I was waving my hand in front of his face but no response but you could see massive sweating. It didn’t even look like he was breathing.”
Drake’s father was hospitalized on Sept. 23, a little over a week after heavy rains hit El Paso and surrounding counties. These rains left behind many standing bodies of water which serve as perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
“The mosquitoes will lay eggs in it (standing water), the larva will develop and then people will get swarms of mosquitoes,” explained JoAnne Dupree, New Mexico State University bio safety manager.
Dupree also said that the NMSU campus monitors mosquitoes closely and works with the county and city to eliminate standing bodies of water.
“I think NMSU on campus may have a lower risk (of spreading West Nile virus) than other places in the county that are not monitored as closely,” said Dupree.
The New Mexico Department of Health has confirmed only one case of West Nile virus in Doña Ana County for 2013.
While the risk of contracting the virus appears lower in Doña Ana and at NMSU, residents and students still have reason to be concerned.
“For each clinical case, there are 80 people who do get the virus and don’t get symptoms,” said Immo Hansen, associate professor of biology at NMSU.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70 to 80 percent of those infected with the virus do not display symptoms, which can make it difficult to accurately detect.
For those who do experience symptoms, they are quite often severe and range from fever and headaches to vomiting and rash. In very severe cases, patients may develop neurological illnesses such as encephalitis or meningitis. It may even lead to death.
“It can be very dangerous especially for very old and young people.” said Hansen.
On the bright side, the threat of West Nile virus is expected to diminish as the temperatures begin to fall.
“When the temperatures plunge, mosquitoes and transmission of the virus disappears,” said Hansen
While the spread of the virus is likely to decrease as the fall and winter seasons approach, Hansen still cautions residents to protect themselves.
Residents can help prevent the spread of West Nile virus by eliminating standing bodies of water. Dupree and Hansen also recommend using an insect repellent that contains the chemical DEET, which has proven to be very effective at repelling mosquitoes. Residents should also avoid being outdoors during the evening and early mornings when mosquitoes are most active.
West Nile virus is a relatively new disease, first appearing in North America in 1999 and in New Mexico in 2003. In the short time it has been around, the virus has affected over 37,088 Americans, according to the CDC. The virus has changed the lives of many of the infected and their families.
“He (father) has been out of work for almost two weeks now,” said Drake about the impact West Nile virus has had on her life. “It has been stressful because I know if he doesn’t take care of himself well it could kill him which means I could lose my dad.”
For more information on how prevent the spread and contraction of West Nile virus, readers may visit NMSU’s Environmental Health and Safety West Nile Virus Guide.
Story and photos by Frank Ambriz
Twelve years ago on Sept. 11, the United States was the victim of four horrific terrorist attacks.
Four commercial airliners were hijacked with two plowing into the World Trade Center twin towers and a third dive bombing on the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed in a field in southern Pa. before it could reach its target after passengers fought the hijackers.
For many, both young and aged, the events of Sept. 11, 2001 are still fresh in their minds.
“It was early in the morning, they had a TV in the cafeteria, they were showing the first plane crashing into the building,” said Della Truman, manager of academic resources for tutorial support services at El Paso Community College. “As the footage (of the first plane) was running, the second plane came around from the side and I saw it wrap around the building until it hit and that’s when we realized it wasn’t a malfunction but that this was a terrorist attack.”
According to the official Executive Summary published by the 9/11 Commission, which closed in 2004, over 2,900 people died as the result of attacks, surpassing that of Pearl Harbor. While the twin towers collapsed in less than 90 minutes after the attacks, the effects were felt long after.
“I am remember later on in the day (after the towers collapsed) they kept finding bodies and bodies,” recalled Vanessa Miramontes, a freshman at El Paso Community College. “I went there (New York City) in 2006 and they were still finding bodies at ground zero and there was this long, long wall with a bunch flyers for missing people.”
Over a decade later, Americans continue to remember how 9/11 changed their lives. Many hold special events on its anniversary much like the 9/11 Silent Run held by the New Mexico State University Air Force and Army ROTC Wednesday morning.
“We had the Army and Air Force (ROTC) form up in formations and we went down and circled the campus for a good two miles until we returned to our starting point (at Hadley Hall) carrying the American, Army, Air Force and our battalion flags to commemorate, in a silent peace of moment, the victims who died,” details Cadet Andrew Gonzales, officer in charge of the 9/11 Silent Run.
After the cadets returned to their starting position, the Army ROTC fired off a cannon shot at 6:46 am, 8:46 eastern time, to memorialize the first attack. Three more shots were scheduled to be fired.
“The cannons commemorate each plane that every person has died on and they will be going off at every single time (the planes crashed),” explains Gonzales.
While these tragic events are behind us, there effects are still being felt and the memories are still very present. 9/11 is now observed as Patriot Day and children learn about the attacks in school.
“For the generations who have not experienced it (9/11), they are still going to familiar with it. They are still going to learn about it in history books and we are still going to have the day commemorated and remembered,” said Truman.
“It’s written in the books now.”
Story and video by Eddie Soriano
Honey Boo Boo, Snooki and Chumlee – no, these are not the newest sugary snacks you will find at your local candy store. These are the names that are embedded in people’s minds across America as an onslaught of reality TV programs have overtaken televisions sets all over the country.
Is this reality TV assault, however, good for a nation that is already more enamored with the superficial than most other countries? Does reality TV add to this superficiality, or is it a way to find a deeper meaning in people and take a step away from the superficial?
Story by David Poe
“We want you to know how very much it mattered to my father and my family that you were there for us today.”
Somewhere deep within a starchy headquarters building at McChord Field, Wash., a tech sergeant’s strong hands grasp the stars of an American flag while a junior airman slowly folds up the bars. Half way up the length, the hesitant, fresh-faced airman misfolds the flag, then mutters something in frustration under his breath.
“That’s OK, do it again,” the tech sergeant says, “go slow, and don’t be nervous.” The airman unfolds his work and starts again. Restarts are OK in this room, a sharply polished space that vaguely smells of metal cleaner. The training is mandatory – for the mission is what airmen call “no fail.”
Story by Monique Anderson
Imagine there is a pill that would lower your blood pressure, decrease your stress and make you more physically fit. This pill is available to you at only a couple dollars a day, and has no physical drawbacks. Would you take it?
These are the benefits of the common household pet. All over the world animals are being used to help the elderly, depressed and ailing improve their standard of living.
With little more than providing a head to scratch, pets and animals used as therapy are helping those in emotional turmoil feel better about what could often become a desperate situation.
“Sometimes I feel like a bird in a cage,” Paul Krueger said. “Sometimes I feel like these four walls are closing in on me.”
Story by Phillip Sierra
The deadline for payment of my summer courses was approaching faster than I can say “help!” and there seems like there is nowhere to turn on this matter.
I know this is not an uncommon scenario for many students all across the nation, which made me think that when a problem is too common it is possible that the cause of that problem is common, too.
Story by Dawna Walter
My heart sank as the broadcaster described a new wildfire in New Mexico. This could only mean one thing. It made me anxious at the idea that at any moment someone close to me could be called to the front lines.
As I watched the newscasts intently, and followed updates on Facebook and Twitter, I got that call. It was Ryan telling me he was called to the Thompson Ridge Fire located in the Pecos wilderness and the crew would be leaving soon. I took a hard swallow and searched for the words- I finally spit out “be safe, stay alert, and I love you.”
That day seemed to drag on as the faint tick of the clock grew to a vulgar thud at every passing second. I couldn’t help but be anxious and scared. The worst always seemed to flood my mind: Is he going to be OK? Will I be able to talk to him? What conditions is he working under?
Finally, I heard from him; what a relief – everything was all right. He had arrived on site and was briefed on the tasks for the next day.
I felt comforted by the tone in his voice; he seemed calm, which made me calm down. I knew he was smart and could handle anything, but it still made me feel uneasy. I asked him about the fire
Stories by feature writers Carlos Chavez, Monique Anderson and Taysha Ham
Editor’s note: NMSU students looked into how the millennial generation is defined and the challenges it faces. The Merge hopes you enjoy the different perspectives offered here:
“Living at Home with Mom”
by Carlos Chavez
Saturday morning and Bernice Sheram wakes up early to get the morning paper. She preps the coffee pot for a morning cup of coffee, then takes in a moment of silence. A single mother, she stares at pictures of her kids framed and perfectly ordered in her living room. As her eyes pan around her home, her kids walk out from their rooms to join her for breakfast.
At 25 and 23 years old, Melissa and Michael are struggling to bridge the gap between adolescence and adulthood. Both work part-time jobs and attend school part time. Their mother is paying for their car, insurance and allowing them to live with her until they finish college. Facing indecision with their future career paths, both kids are acquiring student loan debt at an alarming rate. With a rise in student loan debt and an underwhelming job market, living with mom and dad is a choice many millennials are making. (more…)
Story and video by Jesca Cervantes
Located in the heart of Las Cruces’ barrio, one may take a quick glance while driving by and miss the long history behind the Sunshine Grocery store.
Back when chain grocery stores did not exist, the store stood as a landmark for the city and its citizens. The store opened in 1931 by then County Commissioner Carlos Sanchez, who purchased the lot on the corner of Mesquite Street and Hadley Avenue with hardly anything surrounding it.
Sunshine immediately had a slew of people constantly in and out of the store because it was located on one of the only roads in town at the time.
The store also gained popularity because of the “store credit” system the owners upheld where customers could trade items or pay when they had the money.
Story and video by Tasha Ham
Have you ever seen how mangos hang from the tree, resembling hundreds of bulbs on a Christmas tree? Have you been to Mosquito Bay to see thousands of bioluminescent organisms glowing blue in the water?
This is exactly what the members of the New Mexico Agricultural Leadership (NMAL) group did April 13-20 when they traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico for the Internatioanl Agricultural Issues Seminar.
Throughout the last two years, a group of six members has traveled across the state of New Mexico, Puerto Rico and will soon be in Washington, D.C.
The program provides an unmatched opportunity for professionals within the agricultural industry.Through a series of seminars, class members learn about current agricultural topics and issues that businesses are facing. They hear from a variety of speakers ranging from businesses, non-profits, religious groups and government officials.