OHIO VALLEY — The first two cases of the Zika virus has been reported in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health, in that of a 30-year-old Cleveland woman and a 21-year-old Stark County man. Both returned from Haiti, although the cases are not linked.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, before this first case reported in Ohio, there were 35 other cases reported in 12 other states and Washington, D.C.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, this particular virus is mainly transferred through the bite from a mosquito, and has mainly been reported in South America.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, 80 percent of those who are infected with the virus do no show symptoms.
“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,” Dr. Mary DiOrio, medical director of the Ohio Department of Health, said in a press release. “There have been no reported cases of Zika virus disease transmission through mosquito bites anywhere in the continental U.S.”
So while Ohio does have its first case, Meigs County Emergency Response Coordinator Frank Gorscak said the main concern should be with any Ohio Valley residents who have recently returned from an affected country.
“It’s not endemic to Ohio or most of North America, which means that it’s not a native disease, but people can get infected and bring it back in,” he said.
If a person is going to central or South America they should follow proper protocols for whichever country they’re visiting, including wearing long pants and shirts, using plenty of DEET and attempting to avoid travel at dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, Gorscak said. In the past, the virus has also been seen in Africa and Asia and islands in the South Pacific, although media attention today is mostly focused in Central and South America.
In particular, a travel warning has been issued for the following locations: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. territories; American Samoa; Barbados; Bolivia; Brazil; Cape Verde; Colombia; Costa Rica; Curaçao; 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. Zika virus disease has historically occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia and islands in the Pacific Ocean. In May 2015, Zika virus was found for the first time in the Western Hemisphere in northeastern Brazil. The virus has since spread throughout much of the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
According to the CDC, this particular virus has been transmitted by two breeds of mosquitoes: Aedes aegypti and Aedes abopictus. There is another type of mosquit found in Ohio that may potentially be able to transfer the virus, but it hasn’t been implicated in the transmission of the virus in humans yet.
Gorscak said as far as the virus is understood now, it possibly stays in a person’s system for as long as two weeks, with 90 percent of those infected recovering perfectly, a few hospitalized, and very rare possible cases of casualties. The main area of concern at this point is with pregnant women, as currently health officials are researching the potential connection between the Zika virus and microcephaly, which is a birth defect that can cause a smaller cranium and brain in babies.
“It’s not yet known if Zika is the direct clinical cause (of microcephaly) or if (the Zika virus) works in combination with other causes,” he said.
So far, research hasn’t suggested that this virus can be transmitted through casual contact from person to person, but it’s being investigated on whether or not it can be directly transferred through spit and sweat, Gorscak said. According to ODH, officials are currently investigating whether the Zika virus was sexually transmitted between two partners in Texas — one of whom had recently returned from an affected country.
When it comes to sexual contact and pregnancy, regarding the Zika virus the CDC is recommending that pregnant sex partner abstain from sexual activity or consistently and correctly use condoms during sex for the duration of the pregnancy. They also recommend that pregnant women without symptoms of Zika virus disease be offered testing two to 12 weeks after returning from areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission.
Gorscak said that while vigilance with the virus currently mainly applies to those who have been to affected countries, if one has any health questions or concerns it’s best to visit a doctor.
For more information, call 740-992-6626, or visit odh.ohio.gov or www.cdc.gov.