Iowa reports first-ever case of tick-borne Heartland virus

The state has reported its first case of Heartland virus, spread through the lone star tick. (Photo by James Gathany, CDC)

The Iowa Department of Public Health announced its first-ever report of a patient contracting Heartland virus, which is spread through ticks.

Heartland virus was first discovered in Missouri in 2009 and since then, cases have spread across the Midwest, according to IDPH. The virus is transmitted through the Lone Star tick, which is aggressive and is distinguished by a white spot or “lone star” on its back. They’re most common in early spring through late fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

People with the Heartland virus may feel fatigued, nauseous, feverish or experience diarrhea, according to IDPH. Some patients with the virus are hospitalized, though very few die from it, according to the CDC.

In Iowa, the person who caught the virus is an older adult between 61-80 years old in Appanoose County.

IDPH also announced it has received its first report of West Nile virus this year. The patient is an adult between 18 to 40 years old who is from Polk County. Less than 1% of people infected become seriously ill or die from West Nile virus. It is spread through mosquitoes.

“These reports are an important reminder that as Iowans take advantage of outdoor activities, they should take precautions to prevent tick and mosquito bites,” said IDPH Deputy State Epidemiologist and Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Ann Garvey.

Recommendations from IDPH:

• Use insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
• Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, shoes, and socks whenever possible outdoors.
• Eliminate standing water around the home because that’s where mosquitoes lay eggs.
• Stay on trails when walking or hiking and avoid high grass.
• After each day spent in tick-infested areas, check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks.

Linh Ta
Reporter Linh Ta comes to Iowa Capital Dispatch from the Des Moines Register, where she covered trending news, public safety and the suburbs. Most recently, she has covered retail business and followed both national and local trends to provide insight about the issues that matter the most to Iowans. Beyond traditional journalism, Ta has worked as a speech coach with the Des Moines Storytellers Project with the goal of sharing the diverse perspectives of Iowans from all walks of life. She is the 2019 winner of the Young Iowa Journalist Award and the winner of an Iowa Broadcast News Award. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @linhmaita.