Ohio West Nile virus levels highest since 2012

Warren County is simply the latest place in Ohio where West Nile virus has been detected.

According to state health officials, Montgomery County is among 24 counties in Ohio where positive tests samples have been reported so far in 2018.

"West Nile virus activity in mosquitoes is the highest Ohio has seen this early in the season since 2012, when 122 human cases were reported," Sietske de Fijter of the Ohio Department of Health's Bureau of Infectious Diseases said in a press release.

So far this year, officials report only one person with West Nile virus in Ohio, a 71-year-old Lake County man hospitalized as a result.

Through July 23, the Ohio Department of Health reported a total of 479 positive samples statewide, 309 in Franklin County alone.

The other counties with positive sample tests: Athens, Clermont, Coshocton, Cuyahoga, Delaware, Franklin, Hamilton, Hancock, Lake, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Richland, Ross, Scioto, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wood counties.

Last Wednesday, the Warren County Health District (WCHD) reported a sample taken on July 12 in a mosquito pool in Harlan Twp. tested positive for the virus. It was the county’s seventh positive test since 2015.

MORE: Ohio reports first West Nile virus case of 2018

“West Nile virus can cause potentially serious illness,” according to the health officials. “The WCHD remains proactive in treating standing water in public areas with an environmentally safe larvicide and by trapping mosquitoes and having them tested by the Ohio Department of Health.”

Thursday, after this news organization learned of results, Mongomery County health officials said they had collected samples from “mosquito pools” on July 10 and July 12 that detected West Nile virus. The location of the sample collections reported as positive this week were unavailable.

Dan Suffoletto, public information supervisor for Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County, said that rather than report the recent positive samples, the department wanted the public to understand the potential for mosquitoes carrying diseases such as West Nile or Zika to be flying around them at any time.

“There’s definitely mosquitoes out there with West Nile,” Suffoletto said. “We want to make sure the message is out there.”

“The more mosquitoes that are out there that have West Nile, the more likely that people can be infected.”

The health department has used social networking to spread this message, Suffoletto said.

MORE: Ohio man dies from West Nile virus in 2017

No positive sample tests have been reported yet in Clark County, where last month health officials began conducting a series of tests on mosquitos, formally known as The Mosquito Surveillance and Control Program.

This is the second consecutive year for mosquito testing by the Clark County Combined Health District (CCCHD).

The program is aimed at tracking adult mosquito populations and testing them for the virus, one of the most prevalent mosquito-borne viral infections.

In order to capture mosquito samples, traps are set up in populated areas with natural foliage, according to CCCHD Environmental Health Director Larry Shaffer.

MORE: What you need to know about West Nile virus in 2017

Although traps are situated in permanent locations during testing season, residents may contact the health district and request for a trap to be placed in their area, according to Shaffer.

“The traps are designed specifically to sample the mosquitoes, said Shaffer. “They’re not really meant to reduce the number of mosquitoes in the environment on a large scale.”

Mosquitoes are naturally acclimated to warm weather, and they lay their eggs in water, according to Shaffer. “Wherever water puddles and stands for about a week is a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” he said.

Residents should check objects that tend to accumulate rainwater. Frequent mosquito breeding locations include tires, buckets, gutters and any outdoor equipment.

Objects designed to hold water should be cleaned regularly or receive constant circulation. Likewise, they should be emptied about every six days, according to Shaffer.

“For agricultural environments where there might be watering troughs for livestock, you can put goldfish in the water and they will actually eat the mosquito larvae,” said Shaffer.

Mosquito-borne illnesses can be prevented by wearing long sleeves and pants, avoiding the outdoors during peak mosquito activity hours, keeping windows closed or using a protective screen and using EPA-approved repellents that contain the active ingredient diethyltoluamide (DEET).

“People should understand that we are monitoring for mosquito-borne diseases in Clark cCounty, but they should assume that the disease are out there, and always take precautions,” said Shaffer.

Should a case of West Nile virus be identified within Clark County, a press release from the Health Department will be released to the public via the media, according to Shaffer.
Symptoms of West Nile include fever, headaches and skin rash. 
Anyone who thinks that they are experiencing symptoms should see their family doctor.

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