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West Nile Virus activity highest since 2003

West Nile virus cases have hit the second highest number since the mosquito-born virus was identified in Iowa in 2002. The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 73 cases of West Nile virus are under investigation. The highest year was 2003, when Iowa had 147 cases.

“School has started, Halloween is just around the corner and some people are even thinking about the holidays, but mosquitoes are still thriving and biting,” IDPH Deputy Epidemiologist, Dr. Ann Garvey, said. “West Nile virus activity will continue until the state’s first hard frost, regardless of the date on the calendar.”

Most people (70 to 80 percent) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms. About one in five people who are infected will develop a fever along with other symptoms such as:

• Headache

• Body aches

• Joint pains

• Vomiting

• Diarrhea

• Rash

Whether for work or play, in the backyard or a football game, being outside means there’s a risk for West Nile virus. Iowans should take the following steps to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus:

• Use insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535. 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, oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years of age and DEET should not be used on children less than 2 months of age.

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

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

In addition, and especially since the recent statewide rainy weather, it’s important to eliminate standing water around your property 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.

So far this season, three Iowans have died from West Nile virus. For more information on mosquito and tick transmitted diseases in Iowa visit

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