The Iowa Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) annual report for 2013 shows the number of reported cases of vaccine-preventable diseases decreased when compared to the previous three-year average. The report shows diseases spread by insects continue to impact Iowans — with a “notable number” of these diseases reported to IDPH including: Dengue fever, Lyme disease, malaria, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and West Nile virus.
IDPH medical director Patricia Quinlisk says two species of mosquitoes that carry the disease are especially active this time of year. “While most people notice mosquitoes in the summer, those are the so-called nuisance mosquitoes, while they bite and give you itchy spots, they don’t carry disease. But this time of year, most of the nuisance mosquitoes are gone, but the mosquitoes that are still around, unfortunately can carry diseases like West Nile,” according to Quinlisk.
She says it’s very important to take measures to prevent being bitten if you are outdoors. “We’ve had 11 cases confirmed, right now wear are still investigating a couple of more,” Quinlisk says. “So far this year we have not had any deaths — but we have had some people hospitalized.”
Deputy State Epidemiologist Ann Garvey says another disease has showed up for the first time in Iowa. “Chikungunya, while the name sounds exotic, it’s been around for a long time. What’s changed is that it’s spread to parts of the world where Americans travel more commonly, so it’s spread to the Caribbean. That just happened last year,” Garvey says.
Chikungunya is spread by mosquitoes in other countries. She says people travel to those locations and get bitten by mosquitoes and then get ill after returning home. There have been some 800 cases in the U.S. this year. Garvey says Chikungunya cases are likely to go up here as Iowans travel to have some fun in the sun.
“Most of our neighboring states have all had imported Chikungunya cases. We had our first case a couple of weeks ago. We expect will more cases as we enter the winter months and we Iowans travel to the warmer locations in the Caribbean,” Garvey says. “We are encouraging the folks that are traveling to make sure they take the same measures they take to avoid West Nile at home, to take those same measures in the locations where they are traveling to.” Those measures include wearing bug repellent and avoiding being outside when the mosquitoes are most active. Garvey says you should also sleep under a mosquitoes net in those countries where Chikungunya is prevalent.
The annual report outlines the summer outbreak of Cyclosporiasis, where 136 Iowans from 35 counties were diagnosed in a multi-state outbreak linked to consumption of a bagged salad mix. Only 10 cases of Cyclospora had been reported in Iowa prior to 2013. Other significant elements of the 2013 report include an increase in enteric or diarrheal diseases, which are typically associated with contaminated food or water. For instance, there were 342 cases of Shigellosis reported to IDPH last year, an increase of 518 percent from 2012, when 91 cases were reported.