Officials from the State Health Department and State Hygienic Lab held a workshop today on the West Nile Virus. Fifty-four people had confirmed cases of the virus in Iowa last year – two of them died. Assistant State Epidemiologist Cort Lohff (loaf) says some states have seen fewer cases of West Nile in the second year — but there’s no scientific way to know that’ll happen in Iowa. He says he can only say with some confidence that West Nile will reappear this year, but he says there are a lot of factors, such as amount of rainfall and mosquitoes, that will determine how many cases there’ll be. Lohff says the virus is showing up in other states earlier than it did last year, and everyone needs to take precautions.He says you should take precautions to reduce your exposure to mosquitoes and do what you can to keep mosquitoes from breeding in your back yards. Lohff says the virus has been found in people of all ages, but the elderly and those with underlying health concerns are more at risk. One thing that’s different this year — the disease won’t catch anyone by surprise.He says there’s a tremendous awareness of the disease now among the public and health care providers. He says a lot of physicians did tests for the disease last year and he doesn’t think that will change this year. Mosquitoes spread the West Nile Virus, and there’s been a lot of speculation as to whether last year’s mosquitoes could’ve survived the winter. Iowa State University entomologist Wayne Rowley says nobody knows. He says people have been trying to prove for decades that viruses survive in overwintering mosquitoes, but it’s never been proven. Rowley says there are at least three types of mosquitoes that carry the virus in Iowa, and there’ll be plenty of opportunities for them to bite you. He says the mosquito population is going to be “fantastic” to start the summer. Rowley says the wet weather has been a boon to the bugs. He says we’ve seen more mosquito activity in April than we did all last summer. No West Nile cases have been reported in Iowa yet this year, but there has been a case in Minnesota, Lousiana, and other states.
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