Statewide Iowa — West Nile virus is affecting more Iowans than in any previous year, since 2003, and health experts say avoiding mosquitoes is the best way to avoid exposure.
The Iowa Department of Public Health says that West Nile virus cases have hit the second highest number since the mosquito-borne virus was identified in Iowa in 2002. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reports 73 cases of West Nile virus are under investigation. The highest year was 2003, when Iowa had 147 cases.
Iowa Deputy Epidemiologist, Dr. Ann Garvey says that school has started, Halloween is just around the corner and some people are even thinking about the holidays, but mosquitoes are still thriving and biting. She says that West Nile virus activity will continue until the state’s first hard frost, regardless of the date on the calendar.
Most people (70 to 80 percent) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. But about one in five people who are infected will develop a fever along with other symptoms such as:
Health officials remind you that whether its for work or play, in the backyard or a football game, being outside means there’s a risk for West Nile virus. The health department says Iowans should reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus by:
1. Using insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Always read the repellent label and consult with a healthcare provider if you have questions when using these types of products for children. For example, oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years of age and DEET should not be used on children less than 2 months of age.
2. Avoiding outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
3. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, and socks outdoors whenever possible.
In addition, and especially since the recent statewide rainy weather, they tell us that it’s important to eliminate standing water around your property because that’s where mosquitoes lay eggs. Empty water from buckets, cans, pool covers, and pet water dishes. Change water in bird baths every three to four days.
IDPH officials tell us that so far this season, three Iowans have died from West Nile virus. For more information on mosquito and tick-transmitted diseases in Iowa visit https://www.idph.iowa.gov/cade/vectorborne-illness.