Extreme heat has kept many Iowans indoors for the past several weeks. With cooler weather on the way, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans that while mosquito activity may appear to be low because of the lengthy drought, cases of West Nile virus are consistent with recent years. IDPH has been notified of 11 confirmed cases of West Nile virus so far this year. No deaths have been reported.
"The number of Iowans infected with West Nile virus tends to increase in September and sometimes into October if the weather stays nice,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “Until the state's first hard frost, whether it's for work or play, being outside means there's a risk for West Nile virus."
West Nile virus is a disease transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. While many people who are infected do not experience any signs or symptoms, others have minor symptoms like fever and mild headache, and a small number do develop a life-threatening illness that includes inflammation of the brain. People who experience mild signs and symptoms of a West Nile virus infection generally recover on their own. But severe illness that includes a severe headache, disorientation or sudden weakness requires immediate medical attention.
The best way to prevent West Nile virus is to eliminate mosquito breeding areas and to use insect repellent when outdoors. 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.
In 2012, 31 cases of West Nile virus were reported in Iowa. For more information on West Nile virus and to see a surveillance map of activity, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/CADE/DiseaseIndex.aspx?disease=West%20Nile%20Virus.