The first appearances of West Nile virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, WNV) in New Mexico were reported in late summer to early fall 2002. Several dead birds tested positive for WNV, and 78 equine cases were confirmed. All mosquito pools tested (n = 268) were negative. A statewide surveillance program was launched in May 2003 to study the emergence and spread of this new arbovirus in mosquitoes from the Rio Grande valley. Mosquitoes were trapped at 32 sites along a 750-km stretch of the Rio Grande valley. Sites were trapped for one night either weekly or biweekly, by using CO2-baited CDC light traps and gravid traps. Pools of captured mosquitoes were tested for WNV by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. By mid-July 2003, WNV levels in the mosquito population had reached levels that were detectable by the surveillance program. Positive pools of mosquitoes were found in the Rio Grande valley from mid-July through late September. In total, 75 positive pools were found, from sites throughout the study area. The predominant species infected with WNV in this region were Culex tarsalis (Coquillett) in rural areas, and Culex salinarius (Coquillett) and Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus (Say) in urban areas. There were 202 human cases and 438 equine cases of WNV in New Mexico in 2003, which corresponded well in time with the positive mosquitoes. Our results seemed to be consistent with introduction of WNV in late summer 2002, followed by a period of transmission and amplification cycles between local avian hosts and mosquito vectors.
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