State health officials confirm the first two human cases of West Nile virus in Iowa this year.
A girl and a man, both from Sioux County, had to be hospitalized recently to be treated for the virus and both are recovering. State epidemiologist Patty Quinlisk says Iowa recorded 14 West Nile cases statewide last year.
“West Nile comes back every year, about this time of year, but the fact that we’ve got two people and both of them were pretty sick with it is pretty relevant,” Dr. Quinlisk says. “It reminds all of us in Iowa that we need to take precautions against getting bitten by these mosquitoes.” Those precautions include using an insect repellent with the chemical DEET, avoiding outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, and wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes and socks when possible outdoors.
Quinlisk expects we’ll see more cases soon, as the West Nile virus season typically lasts from late summer into early autumn.
“We’ve had a pretty wet summer so far and some of our neighboring states are having quite a few cases of West Nile, too,” Quinlisk says. “We could be having a bad year this year and even go over 14 cases.” West Nile first came on the scene in Iowa in 2002 and early on was responsible for many dozens of cases per year and a number of deaths.
“If you had West Nile before, it should give you some immunity,” Quinlisk says. “Most people who have West Nile, fortunately, don’t have any symptoms, so some people might not even know they had West Nile years ago. But of course, since you don’t know, the bottom line is, you need to take precautions.” About 20-percent of people infected with West Nile virus will have mild to moderate symptoms like fever, headache, body aches and vomiting. Less than one percent of people infected become seriously ill and rarely, someone dies. The last death in Iowa caused by West Nile virus was in 2010, and there were two deaths that year.
“A lot of the mosquitoes that we get bitten by when around our own houses are mosquitoes that are breeding by our own houses,” Quinlisk says. “This is a good time to go around and make sure there’s no puddles of water or places where water has accumulated where mosquitoes can breed.” Iowa’s also seen 13 cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus this year, all in people who traveled to other countries where that disease is more prevalent.