State environmental protection officials announced awards of $691,340, including $151,900 in grants to communities around the region Tuesday, to combat mosquito-borne diseases the including Zika and West Nile viruses.
The awards were the second round of Ohio EPA funds released this summer, since problems with Zika, West Nile and La Cross Encephalitis began showing up in Ohio.
Butler County Health Department Director Pat Burg said the county is set to get $25,000 from the Ohio EPA soon, but they have already spent about $10,000 trying to control the bugs in the wake of all the rain that pummeled the area in the past few weeks.
“It was sort of late in the mosquito season when we got this (grant), but I think one of the positive things is that earlier in the summer we didn’t have as much activity with mosquitoes probably as we have now because we’ve had a little bit of rain,” she said.
The Butler County Health Department has already begun setting mosquito traps, distributing packs to stop larva from developing, and disseminating information about the pests and the diseases they can carry in advance of a state grant.
As of Sept. 1, 43 Zika cases had been reported in Ohio: 42 contracted during travel and one through sexual activity, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
“We have no Zika transmission in the state currently. We’re very concerned about that and we want to be in a position that if we get to a point that we’re well positioned and able to eradicate it in Ohio,” Dr. Craig Butler, director of Ohio EPA said.
Health officials urged pregnant women planning on traveling outside of the country to consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
“Our advice now for pregnant women is to avoil travel to those counties,” said Dr. Mary DiOrio, medical director for the Ohio Department of Health.
The funding was announced in Champaign County, where officials from the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio EPA emphasized the collaborative efforts of officials in the county’s health department and local cities and villages to control the mosquitoes carrying the diseases.
Burg said they were notified about the grant award in early August but the money isn’t in hand yet. She said it is likely they will be able to carry over funds for next year’s mosquito season.
Mosquito season will continue until the first frost, said Dr. Mary DiOrio, medical director for the Ohio Department of Health.
Burg said there is also money in the grant to hire a pesticide professional if they find any area that is “really, really bad.”
“We have an option of spraying as a health department, we choose not to do that,” she said. “I think there’s a whole lot of technicalities we need to look at in doing that. So we think using the experts would be a better idea.”
In Cincinnati, a 12-year-old boy was recently diagnosed with Zika, marking the city’s second recorded case of the virus.
The boy recently returned from Puerto Rico, and officials believe that’s where he caught it, Interim Health Commissioner Dr. O’dell Owens told our news partner WCPO 9 On Your Side.
A school nurse alerted health officials after the boy become sick.
Officials are now testing mosquitoes in the child’s neighborhood.
A Cincinnati man in his 50s also contracted the virus during a trip to the Caribbean earlier this summer.
In Warren County, half of the $7,500 it received will be used for larval control. This involves application of “dunks” or granules to standing bodies of water to kill mosquitoes in the early stage of development.
The other money is used for community outreach through pamphlets and sections of the county’s website, according to Chris Balster, director of environmental health for the Warren County Combined Health District.
“We’re trying to get them early in the life cycle,” Balster said, adding his agency uses several types of traps to capture mosquitoes to see if any carrying the viruses are in the area.
“We are continuing to trap throughout Warren County,” he said.
So far, Warren County isn’t spraying insecticides to control mosquitoes.
Health officials there agreed not to during a regional meeting, Balster said.
“We don’t spray in the southwest portion of the state,” he said. “We don’t have the funding or the manpower.”
He added that spraying also required public education to offset concerns about environmental hazards.
Ohio EPA is monitoring counties applying insecticides.
“We want to make absolutely certain that if they’re applying insecticides they do it at the right place and at the right time and that we don’t see a measurable impact on the honey bee population in the state, “Butler said.
Staff writers Katherine Collins and Lawrence Budd contributed to this report.