The Iowa Department of Public Health has confirmed the first case of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus. An adult man from Clay County is recovering from the disease. Department Medical Director, Patricia Quinlisk, says the west June has led to a lot of mosquitoes, but that hasn’t increased the risk for West Nile. “Mosquitoes that carry West Nile and some of the other diseases, actually don’t like this much water. They like the little teeny tiny puddles of warm stagnant water,” according the Quinlisk.
She says the biting bugs that have thrived in the wet conditions are “nuisance mosquitoes,” and the other type that carry the virus are more common in the drier fall months.
“Most people who get West Nile will be exposed in say August or September,” Dr. Quinlisk says. “Typically we do see our first case around this time of year, so we know that the virus is out there and some mosquitoes are carrying it.”
West Nile first showed up in the state in 2002 and with 52 cases. It peaked in 2003 with 147 cases and six deaths, and cases had been going down until recently.
“What people may not know is in the last couple of years it has gone back up again. We are not back up to the same high levels we were about a decade ago — but for example — last year we had 44 people get West Nile,” Quinlisk explains.
And those are just the confirmed cases. “Most people who get West Nile will not have any symptoms at all. So if we have 44 people who got sick enough and got tested, we probably had hundreds if not thousands of people out there in Iowa who got infected last year,” she says. “The problem is, you don’t if you’re that one who is not going to get any symptoms, or if you’re that one who is going to get sick and even die.”
There were 33 cases of West Nile in 2012 with no deaths. The last deaths linked to West Nile came in 2011, when there were nine confirmed cases and two deaths. Dr. Quinlisk says regardless of the type of mosquitoes in your yard, use insect repellent as protection against them. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors, and get rid of standing water where the mosquitoes may breed.