Ohio health departments take steps toward Zika prevention - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Ohio health departments take steps toward Zika prevention

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -

After the Zika virus was first reported Thursday in Mahoning County, 21News followed up with surrounding Ohio health departments to learn more about what happens when new cases are detected.

Ohio Department of Health Medical Director Mary DiOrio says that Zika is a reportable disease in Ohio.  This means that all healthcare providers, hospitals, and labs are required notify ODH about any cases they discover.  

DiOrio also said, however, that there is no state requirement to release info on Zika cases to the public.  

ODH did send state-wide press releases for the first half-dozen Ohio cases, but as cases have become more numerous, they've given that job to the local health departments.

Mahoning County's Board of Health sent a release Thursday regarding the county's first two residents to test positive for Zika.

The health departments of Trumbull and Columbiana Counties say they would do the same if such a diagnosis occurred in their borders.

As of Friday, there have been no reported cases of Zika in either Trumbull or Columbiana County.

The Zika virus is spread primarily by bites from infected mosquitoes.  According to the CDC, the virus can also be sexually transmitted.

Of Ohio's now 21 known cases, 20 have been contracted by people who have recently traveled in Zika prevalent countries where they had been biten by mosquitoes.  The other Ohio case was sexually transmitted from one of those people.

Surveillance programs are being carried out in Trumbull and Columbiana to find out if the Zika-carrying mosquito species is present in their county.

Columbiana's program, according to county's health commissioner Wesley Vins, actively searches for and collects mosquito samples.  The samples are then sent to Columbus for testing.  

Vins says Columbiana's program is being funded by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

More funding to combat the threat of Zika is on the way to Ohio.  

Senator Sherrod Brown announced Friday that more than $475,000 had been awarded to Ohio's Public health Emergency Preparedness cooperative.

Brown says the funds, originating from the Center for Disease Control, will be used to help ready local public health organization respond to the virus.  Funds can be used to buy resources like repellent, screens, Zika prevention kits, and other items to identify and investigate possible outbreaks.

The Mahoning BoH says severe disease resulting from Zika is uncommon.  There is, however, a link between the virus and certain birth defects that can attack the immune system and cause paralysis.  These defects include microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

According to the BoH, 4 out of 5 people infected with the virus do not have any symptoms. 

Infected individuals who do develop symptoms generally experience mild rash, fever, headache, red eyes, and joint and muscle pain.  These ailments are typically mild and the BoH says they usually go after about a week.  

Trumbull County's Board of Health says their main public message is to focus on prevention by placing emphasis on avoiding mosquito bites.  

Eliminating stagnant standing water and using mosquito repellent are, according to the Trumbull BoH, two important ways to promote prevention.

More information regarding the Zika virus and a case count indicator can be found here on the Ohio Department of Health's website.

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