Although cases of West Nile virus are typically seen in early autumn in Iowa, three cases of the illness have already been reported in the state. Current surveillance data shows one case each in Clay, Monona, and Woodbury counties. Sentinel sites have also collected mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus in Central Iowa. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans to protect themselves against mosquito bites, the way by which West Nile virus is transmitted.
“There has been a lot of media attention on the Chikungunya virus, another mosquito transmitted disease,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “No cases of Chikungunya have been reported in Iowa; however, it’s important to remember that the best way to avoid Chikungunya, West Nile virus, or other mosquito-borne diseases is to protect and prevent – protect yourself against mosquito bites and prevent mosquitoes from breeding by getting rid of the places they lay eggs.”
Precautions to take to avoid mosquito bites include using insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Always read the repellent label and consult with a health care provider if you have questions when using these types of products for children. For example, DEET should not be used on infants less than 2 months old and oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years old, avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active and wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, and socks whenever possible outdoors.
Eliminating standing water around the home where mosquitoes lay eggs is another important measure, which include emptying water from buckets, cans, pool covers and pet water dishes and changing water in bird baths every three to four days.
Approximately 20 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will have mild to moderate symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches and vomiting. Less than one percent of people infected become seriously ill and rarely someone dies. Since West Nile first appeared in Iowa in 2002, it has been found in every county in Iowa, either in humans, horses, or birds. In 2013, there were 44 human cases of West Nile virus and zero deaths.