DES MOINES – Public health officials in Iowa are shifting their attention from flu cases and disease-transmitting ticks and mosquitoes, keeping measles outbreaks on the lookout.
The state medical director, dr. Caitlin Pedati, stated that the flu season has slowed to sporadic and should be completed by the end of the month, but not before claiming 79 lives, including a death related to pediatric influence.
"I expect to see a decline in the coming weeks," he noted.
Last year, 272 Iowans died from the flu, so "fortunately this was a less severe flu season," Pedati told members of the State Health Council on Wednesday.
Influenza is a respiratory disease caused by viruses.
With the arrival of the spring weather, the milder climate and other outdoor activities, he said, the focus shifts to vector-borne diseases – with particular attention to the West Nile virus after 2018 , when Iowa saw the second highest number of cases after the mosquito -borne virus was identified in Iowa in 2002.
The Iowa Department of Public Health reported that at least 73 cases of West Nile virus were under investigation – more than 147 cases in 2003.
Most people who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms, he said, but about one in five infected people will develop fever along with other symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, joint pains and rashes.
Iowans are recommended to use insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oil or IR3535, in addition to avoiding outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. It is advisable to wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes and socks outside whenever possible and eliminate stagnant water where mosquitoes can lay eggs.
While some states are dealing with measles cases that have reached 764 nationwide, Pedati said the count of Iowa for the contagious virus is equal to two – both in the same northeastern family as the 39; Iowa. Tests carried out by the state hygienic laboratory have confirmed that the first case of measles infection concerned an unvaccinated individual who recently returned from Israel, where measles transmission is taking place.
The second person was a family contact of the first person with the infection.
Those marked the first measles cases in Iowa since 2011.
Health officials have stated that there is no current threat to the general public.
Pedati said the cases serve as a reminder to all Iowans to ensure their vaccinations are up to date because the MMR vaccine prevents disease and saves lives.
"It is so essential to maintain the use of a good preventive tool and this is the MMR vaccine," he told the board, noting that a dose is highly effective up to 94% of vaccinations and that the number rises to 97 % with two doses.
"We know this will be an ongoing problem for a while and we want to make sure people know where to go for good information," added Pedati.
"We want everyone to be protected and we want people to understand that the reason is because there are places in the world where this is going on, and the potential to import it into vulnerable populations is exactly what we've seen in places like New York, Michigan and California. "