More human cases of West Nile reported in 2012 than previous year

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 11:34 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 11:49 a.m. CDT

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Twelve human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Iowa this year, and additional cases are being investigated.

Five positive blood donors have been reported so far this year.

“Activity usually peeks in late summer and early fall,” said Robin Sevier, Union County public health nurse, about the virus.

In 2011, there were nine human cases of West Nile virus in Iowa, and two deaths resulting from the disease.

So far this year, there haven’t been any human cases of the virus in Clarke or surrounding counties.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. People who are infected with the virus may not experience any signs or symptoms.

Some people experience minor symptoms like fever and mild headache. Others, however, can develop a life-threatening illness that includes inflammation of the brain.

Symptoms typically develop between three and 14 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito.

Blood tests are used to determine if a person has the virus, and Sevier said doctors mainly treat the symptoms.

Protection

When it comes to people protecting themselves, Sevier said to be sure to wear insect repellent that contains DEET, the most common active ingredient in insect repellents.

She added, it’s also important to wear long sleeves and pants.

“I know that’s kind of hard in the summertime,” Sevier said.

People should wear light-colored clothing because mosquitoes are more attracted to dark-colored clothing.

There are also hours when mosquitoes are more abundant and active.

“I think dusk and evening hours are the most prevalent time,” Sevier said.

Mosquitoes are known to be highly active during the early-morning and dawn hours, as well.

Animals

It’s not just humans who are impacted by the West Nile Virus. Animals are susceptible to the virus.

According to a Sept. 14 West Nile Virus Surveillance report from the IDPH, 12 horses, including three from Washington County, six from Johnson County, one from Shelby County, one from Dickinson County and one from Clarke County have also tested positive for the virus.

Three mosquito pools and 11 sentinel chickens have tested positive for West Nile virus.

Sentinel chickens are kept in cages and have their blood tested to serve as early-warning detection systems for mosquito-borne diseases.

“They’re constantly monitoring those two,” Sevier said about mosquito pools and sentinel chickens.

Keep in mind

There are things the public can do to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

Since mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, Sevier said it is important to remove any outside source of standing water.

People can dump buckets full of water. They should also be aware of birdbaths, pet bowls and getting roof gutters cleaned out.

One positive note is people who experience mild signs and symptoms of the virus generally recover on their own.

However, severe illness that includes a severe headache, disorientation or sudden weakness requires immediate medical attention.

According to Sevier, one worst case scenario is a person with the virus could develop meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain, or encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain itself caused by a viral infection.

“When symptoms persist, if it’s ongoing, then seek medical treatment,” Sevier said.

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