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Elderly Iowa woman dies from West Nile virus

Mosquito  (Photo previously submitted to NIT, courtesy of Lyric Bartholomay.)
(Photo previously submitted to NIT, courtesy of Lyric Bartholomay.)

DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced the first West Nile virus death in Iowa since 2010, an elderly (81 years of age and older) individual from Northwest Iowa. Testing at the State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL) has confirmed 33 cases of West Nile virus in Iowa, with several more under investigation. This is more than double the number of cases reported last year at this time.

“Though autumn weather is beginning, this death and continuing reports of West Nile virus cases are reminders that mosquitoes are still biting and Iowans should still be mindful of that when outdoors,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk.

Iowans should take the following steps to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus:

  • Use insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. 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, DEET should not be used on infants less than 2 months old and oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years old.
  • Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, and socks whenever possible outdoors.

Approximately 20 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will have mild to moderate symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches and vomiting. Less than one percent of people infected become seriously ill and rarely, someone dies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people over 60 years of age are at greatest risk for severe disease.

Since West Nile first appeared in Iowa in 2002, it has been found in every county in Iowa, either in humans, horses, or birds. In 2015, 14 cases of West Nile virus were reported to IDPH. Previous to this year, the last death caused by West Nile virus was in 2010, and there were two deaths that year.

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