Official: ‘Iowans need to take action against West Nile’

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The start of the prime mosquito season in the state is prompting the Iowa Department of Public health to make sure Iowans are well-informed and prepared.

Gov. Terry Branstad said the biggest mosquito-related threat in the state is the West Nile virus, but he also addressed the Zika virus.

“Although virtually no threat of locally transmitted Zika virus here in Iowa, the Iowa Department of Public Health has been educating the public, local public health partners and the health care community about the virus and its potential impact to travels to other areas where Zika virus transmit is an ongoing problem,” Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday.

The director of the Iowa Department of Health said seven Iowans have been diagnosed with the Zika virus.

“Of the nearly 200 Iowans that have been tested for Zika, only seven cases have been identified,” said director Gerd Clabaugh.

He said all seven have traveled to countries where transmission is ongoing.

State Epidemiology Dr. Ann Garvey said there’s no threat of locally-transmitted Zika virus and that 20 percent of those infected become ill. Garvey said Iowans should put more thought into the West Nile virus.

"Iowans need to take action against West Nile because we do know our mosquitos will be transmitting West Nile this summer," she said.

Since 2005, Iowa has had between five and 44 reported cases of West Nile Virus each year. Unlike Zika, mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus and other diseases are established in Iowa.

Peak hours for mosquitos are from dusk until dawn. The Department of Health has these suggestions to protect yourself against all mosquito bites and to prevent mosquito breeding:

  • Wear DEET-containing insect repellants
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants when possible when outdoors
  • Avoid being outside when mosquitoes bite – dusk and dawn
  • Patch up screens to protect your home from mosquitoes
  • Get rid of standing water to eliminate breeding grounds

The areas with the most active mosquito-borne transmission of Zika are the Caribbean, Mexico, South and Central America.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. The Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe brain defects.