State health leaders discuss plan for Zika Virus in Ohio

(James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP, File)


Columbus, OHIO (WDTN)- Several health leaders from around the state of Ohio held a meeting in Columbus Tuesday to talk about the Zika virus.

The point of this meeting was to run through “what if” scenarios to make sure all state health leaders are on the same page IF the Zika virus starts to be transmitted locally through mosquitoes. It’s an urgent topic because there’s a growing link between Zika and birth defects.

The Zika Virus is spreading across the Western Hemisphere in places like Brazil, Central America and the Caribbean. There have been a few travelers from Ohio who have gotten the virus in other countries but there have been no reports of disease transmission in the state.
Regardless, state health leaders are preparing for that at a meeting.

The Zika virus doesn’t have much of an impact on most people who get it, but the reason health officials are so concerned is the risk it could pose to a pregnant woman’s baby.

“We really do recommend that if there are women that are pregnant where there are areas of ongoing Zika virus transmission that they consider postponing travel if possible.” said Mary DiOrio, the Medical Director at the Ohio Department of Health.

The reason: Zika could be causing birth defects.

“The evidence is very strong that there is an association, for that reason, even though we don’t have a direct cause link, we want to make sure people are aware and can protect themselves,” said DiOrio.

The good news for Ohioans is that our state doesn’t have the type of mosquito that is carrying Zika in other countries. The bad news: we do have a cousin to that mosquito that potentially could.

“We are preparing as if it would be as efficient as a transmitter, right now we don’t know how efficient it would be. In laboratory settings, it appears it can spread the virus,” said DiOrio.

The Asian Tiger Mosquito is what they’re keeping an eye on. It’s small and can be found during the day in most of Ohio.

“The Asian Tiger Mosquito is very distinct. It’s a jet black mosquito with very bold white stripes on it including one that kind of goes right down the middle of its back,” said Richard Gary, the State Entomologist with the Ohio Department of Health.

State health leaders are preparing for the worst but hoping the Zika virus won’t be transmitted locally.

“The worst case scenario I believe with Zika is that we might have some local transmission. I don’t think you would see a large scale outbreak because we don’t actually have the mosquito that is responsible for all of the transmission,” said Gary.

Besides wearing bug spray, these health and mosquito experts are asking everyone in Ohio to try to keep standing water off their property after it rains over the next several months. This will keep mosquitoes from laying eggs. They specifically ask you to look at bird baths, grill and pool covers, and out door playhouses.

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