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Zika virus not likely to infect Wood County By Beth Church
The chances are slim to none that the South American Zika virus will spread all the way north to Wood County.
But if it would, local health officials believe they are prepared to contain an epidemic.
Health district director Ben Batey and epidemiologist Connor Rittwage met with the Wood County Commissioners April 21 to discuss the virus that now is predominantly affecting South America and Puerto Rico.
“We don’t feel that Zika will be a major health problem here in Wood County,” Mr. Batey said. “We may see one or two cases, if any. We just don’t have the climate here for it to really spread.”
“It’s going to be a learning process,” Mr. Rittwage added. “More and more information will be coming out.”
There currently are 358 confirmed “imported” cases in the United States, including 10 in Ohio.
He emphasized there has been no continental transmission–nor any U.S. residents spreading the disease to other U.S. residents.
“Also, no mosquitos have been found to be infected here [in the United States],” Mr. Rittwage said. “However, mosquito season is just upon us.”
The Wood County Health District is being updated by the Center for Disease Control and Ohio Department of Health.
Mr. Rittwage noted that the Zika virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, although it can be spread through sexual contact and from pregnant mothers to their babies.
There are more than 60 species of mosquitos that live in Ohio, but not the Aedes, he explained.
Mr. Rittwage and Mr. Batey are meeting this week in Columbus with state health and agriculture officials to review the range of the Aedes mosquito.
The life expectancy of a mosquito is typically 30 days, and it only has a 200 meter flying range.
The two men said they hope to learn more from the state about an inventory of the types of mosquitos in Ohio.
“Mosquitos don’t travel far,” Mr. Batey explained. “It’s not like they’re flying from Bowling Green to Perrysburg.”
But he said their concerns include whether the virus could mutate and affect the mosquitos in Ohio.
The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 and is named after the Zika Forest in Uganda, according to the CDC.
The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes) and headache.
The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and rarely die of Zika.
Mr. Rittwage noted that only one in five people even show symptoms after being bitten.
“The majority of people who are infected aren’t going to know they are,” he added.
Once infected, a person is likely to be protected from future infections.
However, a Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects.
The health officials provided a list of suggestions to reduce the chances of being bitten by a mosquito.
“Try everything to not get a bite,” Mr. Rittwage said, recommending wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts and applying mosquito repellant when outdoors.
Spraying repellant around a home or in the backyard also is helpful.
A yard should not have tires, cans or other items that can collect water, as mosquitos will breed in flat, stagnant water.
Women who are pregnant should avoid traveling to an area where the disease is epidemic–such as South America or Puerto Rico.
The health district has interviewed several people who were referred by their health care providers as possibly being infected with Zika, but it was not confirmed, Mr. Rittwage said.
The commissioners asked about options for spraying in local communities.
Mr. Batey and Mr. Rittwage are scheduled to meet soon with the Toledo Sanitary District and City of Perrysburg to review their spraying programs and the effectiveness.
Commissioner Craig LaHote asked whether a pilot program for spraying could be established in the county.
Mr. Rittwage noted several benefits of spraying, as it is effective on killing adult mosquitos, but also several drawbacks including the cost that could range from $4,000 to $14,000.
Also there would be an expense for the manpower, equipment, and trucks or a plane for aerial spraying.
One difficulty of spraying for the Aedes mosquito is that it bites in the daytime, and so spraying would need to be done when more people are outdoors, too.
Commissioner Joel Kuhlman questioned whether there are adverse secondary effects from spraying.
Mr. Rittwage acknowledged that the spray also will kill bees.
“The non-targeted population is also affected,” he said.
The health department does provide mosquito “dunks” that can be placed in wet areas and kill mosquito larvae.
“They’re for standing water that you can’t drain,” Mr. Batey explained, adding that the health district would like to purchase more for distribution to county residents.
“It’s a little cheaper than spraying, and it gets to the source,” he noted.
In Puerto Rico, where the poverty rate is more than 50 percent of the population, Mr. Rittwage said most houses don’t have any window screens, allowing insects more ready access to people.
However, Ohio residents typically use window screens; and because many have air conditioning, they keep their windows closed, which would further prevent the virus from spreading.
If the Zika virus was discovered in Wood County, he noted that, for instance, in a rural setting, that would only affect one or two houses.
“If we had an outbreak or a cluster, we would be able to react,” Mr. Batey added.
Overall, the health officials believe county residents are safe from an outbreak of Zika.
“This all sounds really scary, but the odds of this becoming a major issue are slim,” Mr. Batey said. “We’re going to continue to monitor this so we’re ready if anything would change, or if our residents would be affected.”
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Rossford lies at the heart of the Crossroads of America, an area experiencing tremendous economic growth, located at the crossroads of Interstate 75 and the Ohio Turnpike. The city's population of approximately 6,000 is primarily a mix of descendants of Polish, Czechoslovakian, German and Ukrainian workers who came from Pennsylvania to work at the glass plant, now Pilkington.
Rossford was incorporated as a village in 1939 and as a city in 1971. The City is a municipal corporation which operates under its own charter and is governed by a mayor and seven-member City Council. Rossford is served by full-time police and part-time fire departments, dispatched from the neighboring Village of Walbridge.
The City maintains a Community Recreation Center and three parks, one of which,Veterans Memorial Park, features a seasonal marina along with picnic areas and diamonds and courts for baseball, tennis, basketball and volleyball.
Rossford has three elementary schools, Glenwood, Indian Hills and Eagle Point, a junior high and high school and All Saints parochial school for grades pre-kindergarten through eight.
The city boasts a public library and many service and community organizations such as the Rossford Business Association, Lions Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Its Rossford Community Service League sponsors annual activities such as a Valentine's Day Dance, Easter egg hunt, Halloween, Memorial Day parades and their Christmas tree lighting.
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