New ISU Study Tells us Where and When West Nile is Most Common in Iowa



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AMES, Iowa -- A massive study conducted by Iowa State University is complete, and now we know more than ever about West Nile virus in our state.

“So, this is a study that really captured 15 years of West Nile, from the introduction of the virus into the state in 2002 and the 15 years that followed,” said Ryan Smith an entomology professor at ISU.

Smith says the study has provided his department a wealth of information.

The study found that a particular mosquito, the Tarsalis mosquito, is responsible for most cases of West Nile.

Capture data shows they are most common in the western and southwestern parts of the state. The Tarsalis is brown with white stripes across its legs and midsection.

Smith says the virus needs time to develop in the mosquitoes, so they are more likely to be carrying it in the late summer months. Finally, you're more likely to be bitten in the evening hours. Smith says with much of their territory flooded out, this summer could be particularly nasty.

“If this water doesn’t resign over the course of the summer, it could also serve as a breeding habitat for a lot of these mosquitoes that can actually transmit disease, and I think that's something that we're very interested in monitoring,” said Smith.

West Nile is nothing to scoff at, just ask Ronda Hoing. The emergency room nurse had to be taken to the ER herself after being bitten near Saylorville last August.

“One weekend at work I was having headaches and I was joking with my friends that if I fall over I probably had a stroke or something,” said Hoing.

The headache turned into an almost 105-degree fever, she went septic, and her mental state was deteriorating.

“People would ask me questions and I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t get the words out,” she said.

West Nile attacks the central nervous system. Hoing took a month to fully recover, and now says she wants to advocate caution when dealing with mosquito season.

“It was very scary because of course I started researching. Most people have minimal symptoms, but the people that do get it bad, a lot of them die,” said Hoing.

During the 15-year study, there were 498 reported cases of West Nile in Iowa. Smith says that many more cases go unreported because their symptoms are mild.


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