What Makes Iowans Sick?

Armen Hareyan's picture

2006 was the busiest year for the Iowa Department of Public Health's Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology (CADE) since its inception in 1998. There were 5, 517 cases of infectious disease reported to CADE in 2006, an increase of more than 1,700 from the previous year.

Much of the increase can be attributed to a nation-wide mumps epidemic which started and had its biggest impact in Iowa. Nearly 2,000 confirmed mumps cases were submitted to CADE in a 6-month period. "Iowa secured a place in public health history with its handling of the mumps epidemic," said CADE Epidemiologist Meghan Harris. "It's an example of the hard work done by local health care practitioners as well as local and state public health agencies. As a team, they strive towards the goal of ensuring infectious diseases, like mumps, do not spread."


There was also a significant increase in cryptosporidiosis, an illness caused by a parasite that is contracted by drinking contaminated water or having contact with the feces of an infected person or animal. It may be transmitted by swimming and playing in contaminated recreational water.

In contrast, 2006 saw significant decreases in diseases such as hepatitis A and pertussis (whooping cough).

Though endemic in only a few southern and western states, there was one case of Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy, in Iowa last year. The case was assumed to have been acquired out of the country. Another disease rare to the United States, Dengue fever, was reported in Iowa. A person who had traveled to Mexico was believed to have acquired the illness there. Dengue fever, characterized by a high fever and severe joint pain is also known as "breakbone fever."

Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Kenneth Soyemi says the ultimate goal of infectious disease investigation is safety. "Iowans benefit by making sure contaminated food is taken off the market, contaminated swimming pools are made safe again, and people with infectious diseases stay home until antibiotics make them no longer contagious."


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