Iowa health officials are reminding the public to take steps to reduce mosquito exposure after reporting the first human West Nile virus (WNV) case of 2015.

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

The State Hygienic Lab (SHL) has confirmed WNV in a Ringgold County woman. Iowa reported 15 human WNV cases in 2014.

“This West Nile case should serve as notice that the virus is out there and Iowans should take precautions,” said Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk.

West Nile Virus (WNV) was first isolated in a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937, according to the World Health Organization. In 1999 a WNV circulating in Israel and Tunisia was imported in New York producing a large and dramatic outbreak that spread throughout the continental United States of America (USA) in the following years.

West Nile virus is usually spread by the bite of a mosquito that has fed on an infected bird.  In very rare cases, West Nile virus can be spread through: blood transfusion, organ or tissue transplants, pregnancy (from mothers to unborn babies), breast milk and exposure of laboratory workers to infected medical specimens.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Most people (70 percent to 80 percent) who are infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms. Some people have mild symptoms that can include: fever, headache, body aches, mild rash and swollen lymph glands. The first symptoms usually appear within 2 to 15 days after infection.

Anyone infected with West Nile virus can be at risk of developing more severe symptoms and health effects. Adults 50 years or older and those with underlying conditions or weaker immune systems, however, are at greater risk.

Very few people (fewer than 1 percent of people infected with the virus) will develop severe symptoms and health effects. In many of these cases, the infection can affect the central nervous system. This is the nervous system tissues in the brain and spinal cord).

Iowa health officials offer the following recommendations to reduce your risk for WNV:

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.

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