The Scioto County Health Department at the Portsmouth City Health Department have joined forces to inform the citizens of the area about the dangers of the zika virus.
Two cases have now been confirmed in Ohio – one in Cleveland and the other in Stark County, both involving people who recently returned from Haiti. According to the Ohio Department of Health, the two cases are not linked.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also confirmed a U.S. case of zika virus infection in a non-traveler after the individual’s sex partner returned from an affected area and developed symptoms.
Prior to Ohio’s cases, the CDC had reported 35 cases of the zika virus in 12 states and the District of Columbia.
According to a joint news release, the local health departments said the zika virus is primarily transmitted through a mosquito bite. There is no indication that it can be spread through casual contact. Of the individuals infected with the virus, 80 percent do not exhibit any symptoms. When symptoms occur, they are often flu like in nature and can last from several days to a week. These symptoms can include fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis or red eye and headache. Hospitalization due to severe symptoms is uncommon.
The release went on to say there may be an association between zika virus and birth defects in pregnant women that are infected. To prevent potential transmission through sexual contact, the CDC recommends men with a pregnant sex partner abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sexual activity for the duration of the pregnancy. The CDC also recommends pregnant women returning from areas with ongoing virus transmission and that are not symptomatic, be offered testing 2 to 12 weeks after returning.
The CDC recommends women that are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, postpone travel to areas where the zika virus is known for transmission. Those areas include much of the Caribbean, Brazil, Central America and South America. They said, if you must travel, check the CDC website for further country updates.
Both area health departments say there is no vaccination available for zika virus. However, there are precautions to prevent all mosquito bites. Individuals should use insect repellants including DEET. Repellants with DEET can be safely used on children ages two months and older. All insect repellants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including DEET, can be used by pregnant and lactating women.
The departments said you should limit exposure to active mosquito areas and wear proper clothing, such as long sleeves and pants, when exposure cannot be avoided. Air conditioning or window and door screens should be used when indoors. All area where water collection occurs should also be eliminated. Those area provide a breeding ground for all mosquitoes. Mosquito season in Ohio occurs during the months of May through October.
Information is available by calling the Scioto County Health Department at 740-354-3241 of the Portsmouth City Health Department at 740-354-8910. Detailed information can be found at www.cdc.gov or at www.odh.ohio.gov.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – along with U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-MN), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) – have introduced a bipartisan bill to accelerate the development of a vaccine and treatments for the Zika virus.
“The Zika virus – like so many other public health threats – is never more than a plane ride away, and we must make sure the U.S. stands ready to prevent its spread and give care to those who need it,” Brown said. “Our reaction must keep pace with the spread of Zika, which means we should make developing an effective treatments for the virus a priority. By adding Zika to the list of diseases eligible for a priority review voucher within the FDA, we can incentivize the development and approval of a vaccine or treatment options to contain the virus and ensure that those effected by Zika can seek care.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.