DES MOINES The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Department of Public Health today reminded Iowans that mosquitoes remain active until hard freeze occurs and can carry West Nile virus.
Surveillance has shown a larger number of horses have been infected with West Nile virus this year, with more than 20 confirmed cases. Last year Iowa only had one confirmed case in horses.
"Horse owners are encouraged to make sure the get their animals vaccinated and keep the vaccination up-to-date," said Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. "The cases we are seeing are in horses that have not been vaccinated or are not current on their vaccinations, so we are encouraging owners to talk to their veterinarian and make sure their animals are protected."
Nineteen Iowans in sixteen counties have been diagnosed with West Nile virus in 2012. No West Nile virus-related deaths have been reported this year. Last year, there were nine human cases with two deaths.
Humans cannot 'catch' West Nile from an animal, but an increase in animal cases indicates higher activity among mosquitoes carrying the virus.
"The number of Iowans infected with West Nile virus tends to increase in September and sometimes into October if the weather stays nice," said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "Until the state's first hard frost, whether it's for work or play, being outside means there's a risk for West Nile virus."
West Nile virus is a disease transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. Iowans should take the following steps to reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile virus:
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.
Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, and socks outdoors whenever possible.
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.
For more information on West Nile virus and to see a surveillance map of activity, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/Cade/DiseaseIndex.aspx?disease=West Nile Virus.