West Nile virus arrives early in Iowa, blame those pesky mosquitoes

DES MOINES — The mosquitoes are biting and state health officials have already confirmed Iowa’s first human case of West Nile virus this year, which is several weeks early.

The first day of summer is Wednesday and epidemiologist Elizabeth Schiffman says West Nile cases don’t typically start showing up until mid-summer.  “At this time of year, we’re usually telling people to be more aware of ticks because this is kind of the prime risk season for ticks and the diseases that they can transmit, and the mosquitoes are kind of close behind there,” she says.

The state’s first case was reported Friday in an older adult, between 61-and-80 years, from northwest Iowa’s Plymouth County. A total of nine Iowans were diagnosed with West Nile virus last year, with no deaths. The peak months for West Nile in Iowa are usually August and September.

Schiffman says it’s difficult to predict if we’ll see a lot of cases because of mosquitoes’ short life cycle and their sensitivity to weather conditions.  “It can be hard to tell until the season is almost upon us because they need the right mix of hot weather and rainfall to really make all the parts of that cycle happen in the right way so that it overflows into humans,” Schiffman says.

The experts say Iowans who spend time outdoors should wear insect repellant, and dump out any standing water where mosquitoes might breed. Those infected with West Nile may show no symptoms, or they may have a fever, headache, disorientation and muscle weakness.

Learn more at: https://hhs.iowa.gov/cade/disease-information/west-nile-virus