Iowa Reports First Human West Nile Virus Case

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus disease in Iowa. The case is a middle-aged woman in Clayton County who was not hospitalized. In addition to the first human case of West Nile virus, statewide surveillance indicates increased numbers of mosquitoes infected with the virus.

"This human case, coupled with increased activity in mosquitoes means Iowans need to take action to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes that may carry the virus," said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "The West Nile virus season in Iowa typically lasts until the first frost."

The best way to prevent West Nile virus is to eliminate mosquito breeding areas and to use insect repellent when outdoors. Iowans should take the following steps to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus:

* Use insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Always read the repellent label and consult with a health care provider if you have questions when using these types of products for children. For example, DEET should not be used on infants less than 2 months old and oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years old.


* Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

* Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, and socks whenever possible outdoors.

* Eliminate standing water around the home because that's where mosquitoes lay eggs. Empty water from buckets, cans, pool covers and pet water dishes. Change water in bird baths every three to four days.

Approximately 20 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will have mild to moderate symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches and vomiting. Less than one percent of people infected become seriously ill and rarely someone dies.

Since West Nile first appeared in Iowa in 2002, it has been found in every county in Iowa, either in humans, horses, or birds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 1,356 total human cases of West Nile virus in the U.S. in 2008, including 44 deaths. Five cases were reported in Iowa, including one death.