Zika virus, newest mosquito-borne disease, now in Ohio

Staff report

The Ohio Department of Health has announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed the presence of the Zika virus in two Ohio individuals who returned from Haiti. The Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito.

There have been no reported cases of Zika virus disease transmission through mosquito bites anywhere in the United States. All cases in the United States have been from overseas travelers, primarily from Central and South America.

“There is no vaccine available for Zika virus so it’s important for Ohioans traveling to affected areas to take steps to prevent mosquito bites,” said Dr. Mary DiOrio, medical director of the Ohio Department of Health.

The primary mosquito that transmits Zika virus is found in the tropics and southern U.S., but it is not established in Ohio. Another type of mosquito found in Ohio may potentially transmit Zika virus, although it has not yet been implicated in the transmission of human cases.

As of February 10, 2016, there were 40 cases of Zika virus in the United States and 35 of those infected had traveled of out country. The remaining five cases are from Florida and Texas.

“Prevention of mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission is the same as prevention of any other mosquito-borne diseases,” DiOrio said. “This includes taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites – such as using insect repellents, limiting exposure where and when mosquitoes are most active, and removing breeding sources such as containers that collect standing water.”

Strategies to prevent mosquito bites include wearing long sleeve clothing and pants, using FDA approved mosquito repellant, ensuring that windows and doors have screens, staying in air conditioned spaces, and sleeping under mosquito netting.

Of people infected with the Zika virus, 80 percent do not have any symptoms. When symptoms occur, they are often mild, lasting from several days to a week, and include fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), and headache. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

Due to the possible association between Zika virus infections in pregnant women and certain birth defects, CDC recommends that pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant consider postponing travel to areas with Zika virus transmission. Men who have traveled to areas with the active Zika virus should abstain from sex or use a condom as the virus has been found to be spread by intercourse and the duration of the virus in semen is unknown.

The CDC has provided a list of countries and regions to avoid visiting in an attempt to prevent further spread of the virus: The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. territories; American Samoa; Barbados; Bolivia; Brazil; Cape Verde; Colombia; Costa Rica; Curaҫao; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guadeloupe; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Martinique; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Saint Martin; Samoa; Suriname; Tonga; and Venezuela.

Staff report