Iowa is experiencing its worst West Nile virus outbreak in 15 years.
State Deputy Epidemiologist Ann Garvey says 73 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have either been confirmed or are under investigation.
“We’re seeing a concerning high level of West Nile activity this year,” Garvey said. “It’s actually the highest level we’ve seen since West Nile was first becoming established in our state in the early 2000s.”
West Nile activity in Iowa peaked in 2003, when six people died and nearly 150 were sickened. “Unfortunately, we do see West Nile deaths almost every year. We’ve had three so far this year. All three were in elderly Iowans – two were living in northwest Iowa and one in central Iowa,” Garvey said. The three deaths in Iowa this year are the most from West Nile since 2003.
Garvey is calling on Iowans not to let their guard down. “I think most of us, when school starts and we get into fall, we tend to forget about things like sunscreen and mosquito repellent. But, this is really the heart of our West Nile season, so it’s more important than ever to make sure that we’re using that mosquito repellent,” Garvey said. Confirmed cases of West Nile are likely to increase in the coming weeks.
Garvey suggests heavy rains this summer, combined with warm temperatures, have boosted the mosquito population in Iowa. The pests won’t stop biting until the first hard frost.
“We expect the season to continue until those hard freezes,” Garvey said. “We expect activity and illnesses to continue, likely through October, until we really see those really cool temperatures.” Warm weather is in the weekend forecast, meaning many Iowans will be spending time outdoors. They’re urged to take precautions to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes – especially in the early morning and evening when the bugs are most active.