The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced testing at the State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL) has confirmed the first human case of West Nile virus disease in Iowa in 2017. A middle age (41-60 years) Ida County male tested positive for the virus. He was not hospitalized, and is recovering. In addition, surveillance has identified four mosquito pools that tested positive for West Nile (one in Polk County, two in Pottawattamie County and one in Story County).

Iowa Image/National Atlas of the United States
Image/National Atlas of the United States

“West Nile virus season typically lasts from late summer into early autumn,” said IDPH Deputy Epidemiologist, Dr. Ann Garvey. “This case serves as a reminder to all Iowans that the West Nile virus is present and it’s important for Iowans to use insect repellent when outdoors.”

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Iowans should take the following steps to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus:

  • Use 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.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes and socks whenever possible outdoors.
  • Eliminate standing water around the home 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.

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.

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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 2016, 37 human cases of West Nile virus were reported to IDPH, including one West Nile-related death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 18, 2017, a total of 33 states have reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes in 2017. Overall, 46 cases of West Nile virus disease in people have been reported to CDC. Of these, 26 (57%) were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 20 (43%) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease.

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