State health officials say the West Nile Virus that’s killed 10 people in Iowa the last three years has been confirmed in birds in Clarke and Linn Counties. West Nile first appeared up in Iowa in 2001 with one case in a bird. State Epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk says the good news is West Nile here continues to follow the pattern set in other states that includes a slow start. She says that’s probably because it took time to get in the state and get going, then the second year it would hit the state hard. By the third year she says cases would drop off and by the fourth and fifth year it would drop into the background. Iowa followed that pattern with two deaths in 2002, six in 2003 and two last year. Quinlisk says the discovery of the disease in birds is a sign to be ready.She says birds typically come up positive two weeks before it shows up in humans, so she says this is like a two-week warning. While the number of human cases and deaths usually goes down after the first three years of West Nile, Quinlisk says you can’t discount the dangers of the disease. She says there are a few people, primarily the elderly, where they will get severe headaches, fevers, trouble walking or talking and end up in the hospital. “And it’s those people who have that very rare possibility of dying.” Mosquitoes carry West Nile and Quinlisk says you should always wear repellent when you’re outside. You may think all the rain recently would help increase the mosquito population and lead to more West Nile case — but Quinlisk says that’s not the case. She says the mosquitoes that carry West Nile don’t like massive amounts of rain, so big rains and flooding actually make their numbers go down. She says they like little puddles of rain, with their favorite breeding spot in old tires that have small amounts of water. Quinlisk says we see the most West Nile activity at the end of August and into September when small amounts of rain help the West Nile mosquitoes thrive. There’ve been 224 known human cases of West Nile in Iowa with the 10 deaths. Nationwide there’ve been over 25-hundred human cases of West Nile — with nearly 700 deaths.
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