Mosquitos still a risk – even in fall

Kalani Steinmetz | Staff Writer

Summer may be coming to a close but those pesky mosquitos aren’t taking a hike out of Iowa for a few months yet. That’s right. The fall weather will not stop those guys. Not only will they still be a painful nuisance, but there’s also still the risk of contracting the West Nile Virus and other diseases. 

So, what exactly is the West Nile Virus? What does it do? The virus originated in Africa and arrived in the U.S. in 1999, carried in 30 different types of mosquitos and most commonly inserted into the body via mosquito bite. The severity of the virus’ effects depends on the strength of an exposed person’s immune system. Most people will not have symptoms but, according to Polly Carver-Kimm of the Iowa Department of Public Health, “About 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 1 percent of people infected become seriously ill and, rarely, someone dies. In 2017, 12 Iowans were diagnosed with West Nile virus and two Iowans died.” The disease can be deadly amongst the elderly due to their weaker immune systems. This year, as of currently, there have been 18 confirmed cases of the virus and 16 cases under investigation. 

West Nile may be in Iowa, but the outdoor fun does not have to stop. “The key to (avoiding contracting the virus) is prevention,” stated Melissa Stillson, registered nurse and administrator at Health Services of Lyon County. “You can use repellent and sunscreen at the same time. Just apply the sunscreen and wait till it dries, then apply the repellent.” Other methods of prevention include:

• Be aware of the peak biting hours (dusk and dawn)

• Use DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus repellent 

• Wear light-colored clothes

• Wear long-sleeved shirts, shoes, long socks and pants 

• Reduce mosquitos’ chances to breed by removing standing water

• Change the water in bird baths and dog dishes regularly (every three to four days) as mosquitos prefer using dirty water for breeding and laying eggs

• Make sure all windows and doors have tight-fitting screens

• Keep roof gutters clean

• Make sure all outdoor faucets, sprinklers, air conditioners, hoses, etc. are leak-free

• Consult a doctor on how to best protect children younger than 3 as lemon eucalyptus is not safe for children under 3 and DEET is not safe for children less than 2 months old.

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