The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) is reminding Iowans to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites in the coming weeks. Late summer and early fall are the seasons of peak West Nile virus activity in the state. “During the summer months, packing bug spray is just part of the routine for outdoor activities,” said IDPH Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Ann Garvey. “Even though the seasons are changing, the mosquitoes are still biting and it’s even more important to pack bug spray for soccer, football or fall hikes than it was for summer activities.”

Culex quinquefasciatus/CDC
Culex quinquefasciatus/CDC

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.

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.

So far this year, 15 cases of West Nile virus have been confirmed in Iowa. 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 2015, 14 cases of West Nile virus were reported to IDPH. The last death caused by West Nile virus was in 2010 and there were two deaths that year.

As of Sep 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 956 cases of West Nile virus disease in people in 46 states and the District of Columbia.