Dead birds found in Burlington, Fort Madison, Jewell and Des Moines have now tested positive for the West Nile virus. Dr. Stephen Gleason, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says that confirms the presence of the virus in eleven counties.Those 11 counties are spread across much of the state, plus the virus has been found in eastern Nebraska, so he says health officials are assuming the virus is actually present in most of Iowa. If you’re bitten by a mosquito in any county where they’ve found the virus, Gleason says you’re likely to be exposed. Your chance of showing symptoms is one in 200 and even with symptoms, the death rate’s only five to 10 percent. Only one person has died of West Nile this year, a woman in Louisiana. West Nile virus is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. People do not become infected through contact with a dead bird, or through contact with another person who has it. And though some Iowans have called with concerns about pets, the disease affects only people, horses, crows and blue jays.Like many other viruses, he says it’s specific to certain species in a given food chain. Gleason says the dry weather recently is good news in this case.as incidence of the disease is much lower where the mosquitoes are down. Most people who are infected with West Nile virus show no symptoms and do not become sick. A few get a fever or headache. Less than one percent become seriously ill. A handful of Americans have died from the disease since it was first discovered on the continent in 1999.
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