Tips to prevent contracting the West Nile Virus

Many Eastern Iowans enjoy being outdoors during the summer, but you may want to watch out for humid and rainy weather, which can attract mosquitoes. 

A Black Hawk County health official says the West Nile virus is commonly spread through infected mosquitoes, which can be deadly. 

Jared Parmater, an Environmental Health Program Manager, said there’s been two cases of the West Nile virus infection reported in Iowa this summer. He said one of those cases was fatal. 

There is a six-week period of time beginning in August when West Nile virus cases increase, according to Parmater. 

Parmater said preventing mosquito bites will lower your risk of getting the virus. 

He said mosquitoes are most active during dawn and dusk. You should try to limit your outdoor activities during this window of time, especially if you’re in a wooded area or near standing water. Parmater recommends wearing long sleeves, pants, shoes and socks when you’re outside. 

Using insect repellent is also important, however, Parmater reminds you to read the labels because many products cannot be used on young children. 

"Make sure you check the actual application on the chemical you’re using," he said. "You can use DEET, or Picaridin, oil with lemon eucalyptus. There’s a few different things out there in the market that are pretty good at keeping mosquitoes away."

You can also limit the standing water outside your home.

"So, standing water is usually a bad thing. When I say standing water, I mean bird baths," he said. "Be aware of any kind of buckets or cans, pool covers, or even a pet water dish – something like that – that could act as a reservoir outside." 

He said older adults and young children are at the highest risk for contracting the West Nile virus.

He said the West Nile virus infection mimics symptoms of the flu. If you think a mosquito bite has made you sick, Parmater said you should see your health care provider immediately to get tested. 

Here are some additional tips from the Iowa Department of Public Health to protect yourself : 

  • Use insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. 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, oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years of age and DEET should not be used on children less than 2 months of age.
  • Eliminate standing water around the home because that’s where mosquitoes lay eggs.
  • Empty water from buckets, cans, pool covers and pet water dishes.
  • Change water in bird baths every three to four days.
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