The state’s top doctor says the risk of contracting the West Nile virus is not dropping even though summer is starting to wind down. State medical director, Patricia Quinlisk, says we’ve had just a few cases of the mosquito-borne disease so far this year.
“Our peak of West Nile season is really sort of end of August, September and early October,” Quinlisk says. “So we’re just starting to go into the peak season of West Nile, even though people don’t think of this as the time of year to worry about mosquito bites.”
It only takes one bite from the insects to cause a person to get infected. “The mosquitoes that are out this time of year are the ones that carry West Nile. So, I just remind people not to let up on using that insect repellent, and to take some precautions. Because right now we’re going into the time when Iowans are most at risk of getting this disease,” Quinlisk says.
Dry weather has kept the overall summer mosquito population down, but that hasn’t reduced the risk. “This is a mosquito that likes small pools of water, so dryness isn’t necessarily something that cause this particular type of mosquito to go down,” Quinlisk explains.
That means the mosquitoes can survive on small amounts of water like a dog bowl that is left out, or a bird bath. Quinlisk says the key is to not let these types of water sources get stagnant, refresh the water and keep it clean so the skeeters don’t use it to breed.
The Health Department reports three human cases of West Nile so far this year, one each in Kossuth, Linn and Shelby counties. West Nile was also detected in three blood donors in Shelby County. There were 31 human cases reported in 2012, but no deaths.
There were nine human cases of West Nile reported in 2011 with two deaths.