Awareness and prevention are the keys to battling the Zika virus.
Zika is a primarily mosquito borne virus.
If a Zika-infected mosquito bites a pregnant woman, there is a chance her child can be born with microcephaly– an undersized head and underdeveloped brain.
In Brazil, an increase in the number of children born with abnormally small heads has been connected to Zika.
Zika can also lead to Guillain Barre syndrome, which affects the nervous system, “but by far the biggest concern is microcephaly,” said Richard Gary, an entomologist with the Ohio Department of Health.
Since January, there have been 14 cases of people infected with the virus in Ohio, all of whom traveled to a country where the virus was present including those in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean.
Patricia Wiemken, director of environmental health for the Fulton County Health Center, said the ODH is focusing on local transmission of Zika.
Local transmission is if a person is bitten by a mosquito locally and contracted the virus.
The concern is if a person infected with the virus is bitten by a mosquito, which then bites a second person and passes the infection.
It has been discovered that a man infected with the Zika virus can pass the disease to a sexual partner.
Precaution, including abstinence or condoms, is recommended in those situations.
Gary said so far, one, and possibly two, types of mosquitoes can pass the virus to humans.
One that definitely carries the Zika virus is the Aedes aegypti.
That particular type of mosquito lives in tropical and sub-tropical areas. It can be found in the southern United States.
Gary said it is possible for humans to transport the Aedes aegypti mosquitos into Ohio; for example, in a load of old tires brought into the state from the south.
But there’s no indication that Aedes aegypti can survive an Ohio winter. They don’t survive temperatures below 40 degrees.
Another mosquito that can possibly pass the Zika virus to humans is Aedes alboqictus, or the Asian Tiger Mosquito.
The Asian Tiger is found in Ohio, primarily in southern Ohio.
Gary said state officials are working to determine where pockets of the Asian Tiger exist; then state officials will work with local health departments to control them.
Gary said Ohio citizens need to be aware of the dangers posed by mosquitoes and take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
Eliminate areas of standing, stagnant water, such as in gutters, unused bird baths, and particularly, stacks of old tires.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water.
Also, citizens should protect themselves by taking appropriate precautions such as wearing mosquito repellants and long sleeve shirts and long pants, and staying indoors when mosquitoes are most active, which is generally from dusk until dawn.
Also, keeping window screens in good order is suggested.
“It’s not just Zika,” Wiemken said. Protecting oneself against mosquito bites protects against all mosquito-born illnesses, including West Nile Virus, she said.
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