Public Safety

West Nile cases second-highest this year since virus found in Iowa

'Mosquitoes are still thriving and biting'

Clockwise from top left: The deer tick, which transmits Lyme disease; the American dog tick, which transmits Rocky Mount
Clockwise from top left: The deer tick, which transmits Lyme disease; the American dog tick, which transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia; the Culex pipiens mosquito, which transmits West Nile virus; and the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits Zika, dengue and chikungunya. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

West Nile cases this year already have hit the second-highest number since the mosquito-borne virus was identified in Iowa in 2002, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported Friday.

The agency reported investigating 73 cases of the West Nile virus so far in 2018. Three Iowans have died. Last year 12 Iowans were diagnosed with the virus and two died.

The state’s highest year was 2003, when Iowa had 147 cases.

But Iowa may have more cases yet this fall, officials warn.

“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,” Department of Public Health Deputy Epidemiologist Ann Garvey said in a prepared statement. “West Nile virus activity will continue until the state’s first hard frost, regardless of the date on the calendar.”

Max Freund / The Gazette

Garvey said 2018 has been a big year for West Nile because of weather.

“Heavy rains created standing water and we’ve had high temperatures all summer into fall,” she said in an interview.

The majority of cases have been in western and central Iowa, Garvey said.

Most people (70 to 80 percent) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. About one in five people who are infected will develop a fever along with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.

Iowans should take the following steps to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus: use insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535; avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active; wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes and socks outdoors whenever possible; and eliminate standing water around the home where mosquitoes lay eggs.

For more information on mosquito- and tick-transmitted diseases in Iowa, visit this site.

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