Officials with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) say even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared the recent West Nile virus outbreak as the largest ever seen in the U.S., Iowa West Nile virus case reports have been consistent with recent years. The (IDPH) says it has received five confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne illness and several additional cases are currently being investigated. The five confirmed cases include one each in Grundy, Linn, Lyon, Page, and Plymouth counties. All patients have recovered.
While overall mosquito activity has been lower this year, likely due to the extremely dry spring and summer, officials say the cases illustrate West Nile virus is circulating and causing illness. IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says “Iowans may think the use of mosquito spray while outdoors is unnecessary because there seem to be few mosquitoes bothering them.” But Quinlisk says they’re urging residents and visitors to continue the use of insect repellent with DEET while outdoors, to protect against mosquitoes which may be carrying the West Nile virus, and ticks, which may carry Lyme disease.
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.
While West Nile virus case reports so far have been consistent with recent years, there has been a slight increase in Lyme diseases case reports. 113 cases of Lyme disease have been confirmed thus far in 2012. There were 100 confirmed cases in 2011.