DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Public Health is currently investigating 73 cases of West Nile Virus, that’s the highest it’s been in about 15 years.
IDPH reports 147 cases in 2003.
Specialists say they believe one of the reasons for this spike is the weather.
“We’ve had a long string of warm days. We’ve had quite a bit of heavy rains and so when we have those really heavy rains the water tends to sit around for awhile. When you combine that warm temperatures for the last numerous weeks in a row, that really creates a great environment for mosquitoes to breed and grow to high numbers,” Iowa Department of Public Health Deputy State Epidemiologist Ann Garvey said.
An Iowa State University Entomologist said the virus spreads through an interaction of birds and mosquitos and infected birds can carry the virus for years without being severely affected.
“If another mosquito feeds on that infected bird, then that new mosquito can then become infected itself. And so you can kind of see how this creates a bit of a cycle in which more birds are becoming infected and more mosquitos are becoming infected,” Iowa State Department of Entomology Associate Professor Ryan Smith said.
He said then the infected mosquitoes bite humans during peak hours from dusk until dawn.
“I think when we get into the fall months and school is back in session, we tend to forget about mosquito repellent and sunscreen. So it’s really important right now to be using that repellent.
This is really the heart of West Nile season. We’re going to have quite a few more weeks of the season, unfortunately. We know that mosquitoes will really be hanging around until we see our first hard freezes so we’ve got quite few more weeks.”
It’s important to use mosquito repellent that contains deet when you are outside, but especially from dusk until dawn.