West Nile virus sickens 73 Iowans, kills 3, making this state’s worst season since 2003

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Late-summer mosquitoes are sparking Iowa’s worst West Nile virus outbreak in 15 years, state experts said Friday.

The virus is believed to have seriously sickened 73 Iowans so far this year, killing three, the Iowa Department of Public Health said. Iowa saw just 12 confirmed cases in all of last year. Mosquito season is likely to continue for at least a few more weeks. “We expect these numbers to rise,” said Ann Garvey, the department’s deputy epidemiologist.

The virus, which can cause dangerous fevers and brain swelling, arrived in Iowa in 2001 and peaked here in 2003, when it caused 147 confirmed illnesses and killed six Iowans. This year’s total is the highest since then. Garvey said all three deaths were among residents older than 81. Two were in northwest Iowa and one was in central Iowa, she said. Their identities were not released. 

Although mosquitoes tend to be more numerous earlier in the summer, the types most likely to carry West Nile tend to come out in late summer and early fall. Culex species of mosquitoes like to feed on birds, including blue jays and crows, which often carry the virus, then bite humans, infecting them.

Garvey said the spike in cases could be related to Iowa’s weather this summer. “We’ve had some really heavy rains that allowed water to stand for a long period of time,” she said. That water, combined with warm days, encourages mosquito breeding.

She noted that the weather forecast for this weekend looks inviting for outdoor activities, and she urged people to take precautions against mosquitoes, especially in the early morning and evening.

The threat of mosquito bites will continue until Iowa’s first hard frost, which tends to be in October.

Most people infected with West Nile show few symptoms, but about 20 percent suffer symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea and rashes.

The health department gives these tips for Iowans to protect themselves from insect bites:

  • Use insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. 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, oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children younger than 3 and DEET should not be used on babies younger than 2 months.
  • Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes and socks outdoors.
  • Eliminate standing water around your property, 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.

Source : https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/health/2018/09/14/west-nile-virus-2018-iowa-deaths-illness-spikes-mosquito-symptoms-weather-rain-flood-bug-spray-deet/1301126002/