MARION TOWNSHIP — The Hocking County Health Department (HCHD) has received word that some of the mosquitoes that were collected in mid-July from traps in Marion Township have tested positive as carriers of the West Nile Virus (WNV).
“We trap mosquitoes and send them to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) for identification,” explained HCHD Environmental Health Director Wendy Hanna. “They (ODH) test the Culex mosquito species for WNV, and one of our pool traps came back positive for WNV.”
HCHD Environmental Technician Joann Montgomery added that the positive sample was collected the week of July 16th. “This is our first positive case for 2018,” Montgomery said.
HCHD shared with the public via a post on social media on Friday, Aug. 3, that the first 2018 WNV positive mosquito pool for Hocking County was found.
Montgomery further reported that the HCHD had 22 pools (traps) that tested positive last season in 2017.
As of July 23, 2018, 20 counties with WNV activity have been reported to the ODH. In Ohio, mosquito-borne illnesses are most often transmitted during the warmest months, May through October.
According to Dr. Richard Gary at ODH, the trend of infection rates for 2018 is following the same path as 2012, when 122 human cases were reported.
WNV was first discovered in North America in New York City in 1999. The virus spread quickly across the country in a few short years. In Ohio, the virus was first identified in birds and mosquitoes in 2001. By the end of 2002, all of Ohio’s 88 counties except one reported positive cases in humans, mosquitoes, birds or horses. The virus now is well recognized in Ohio, with cases being reported each year and having seasonal epidemics if summer and fall conditions are right.
“It has been around and what we are always trying to get across is, for people to beware that these mosquitoes can carry and transmit diseases and they need to take precautions,” Hanna explained.
Hanna explained that to date there have been no reported human cases of WNV in Hocking County this year. However, Montgomery stated, there have been two positive human cases reported in Ohio for 2018. One case was in Lake County, which is located in northern Ohio by Lake Erie. The other case is closer to home in Ross County, which is a neighboring county to Hocking County. Human cases are generally reported this time of year, July through October.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, eight out of 10 individuals (or approximately 80 percent) infected do not develop symptoms. However, one in five that are infected develop a fever, body aches, joint pain, headache, swollen lymph glands or a rash.
Those that have this type of West Nile recover completely but can be fatigued or feel weak for weeks or months. WNV infection can only be diagnosed by a healthcare provider. No preventative vaccine is available for humans.
According to the World Health Organization, humans and horses are considered “dead end” hosts, meaning that once they are infected, they do not spread the infection. Birds are the hosts of the virus. WNV begins by a mosquito biting an infected bird.
“We are always trying to get the message out for people to be careful,” said Hanna. “We don’t want people to not go outside and enjoy the outdoors, just do it in a safe way.”
Hanna told The Logan Daily News that the most effective way to prevent mosquito-borne diseases, such as West Nile, is to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes. This includes using EPA registered insect repellents, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and taking steps to control mosquitoes around your home.
“Take extra care to use repellents from dusk to dawn,” Hanna said.
Montgomery went on to say that empty items such as flowerpots, buckets, barrels, or tires, can hold standing water, which needs to be drained on a regular basis, or they become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
“Be sure to stop mosquitoes from breeding in and around your home,” explained Montgomery. “Change the water in pet dishes frequently and replace the water in bird baths weekly.”
Hanna added, “Mosquitoes can carry several diseases, but West Nile Virus is the only one that ODH tests for which is another reason we recommend people use repellants and remove mosquito breeding areas around their home.”
According to the ODH, mosquito control activities are most often handled at the local level, through county or city government. The type of mosquito control methods used by a program depends on the time of year, the type of mosquitoes to be controlled and the habitat structure. Methods can include the elimination of mosquito larval habitats, application of insecticides to kill mosquito larvae or spraying insecticides from trucks or aircraft to kill adult mosquitoes.
In Hocking County, the HCHD uses an integrated pest management program to reduce vector-borne diseases in Hocking County. A vector is an organism that can transmit a pathogen or parasite from one infected person or animal to another. For diseases where there is no effective cure, such as West Nile Virus, or diseases that can cause long-term chronic symptoms such as Lyme Disease, vector control remains the only way to protect human populations.
Through a grant with the Ohio EPA, the HCHD has been able to implement an integrated mosquito control program. The program includes mosquito surveillance, educating the public, draining or removing breeding sites, applying larvicide to prevent mosquito larva from developing into biting adults and, as a last resort, spraying for adults.
For more information, visit the HCHD’s website at www.hockingcountyhealthdepartment.com.