Ohio health officials urge precaution against West Nile, other insect-borne diseases

OHIO VALLEY — Ohio is experiencing a rise in mosquitoes this summer due to heavy rains.

Mosquito pools from five health jurisdictions across the state have tested positive thus far for the West Nile virus: Columbus (1), Franklin County (1), Richland County (1), Summit County (3), and Licking County (2).

To date, no human cases of West Nile virus have been reported. In 2014, Ohio had 11 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in people.

There are no reports this year of mosquito-borne illnesses in Meigs and Gallia counties.

“We’ve had no reported cases of West Nile in the last few years,” said Gallia County Health Department sanitarian-in-training Ryan McCarley. “It’s best to keep an eye on your kids when they’re playing outside near woods and brush. Mosquitoes are most active two to three hours before and after dark. Use repellants and citronella candles to keep the bugs down.”

The primary way people get the West Nile virus is when someone is bitten by an infected mosquito. Most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected with WNV will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).

Rains have caused standing water in many areas of Ohio, and mosquitoes breed and multiply in such water. Floodwater species such as Aedes vexans can become extremely abundant under such conditions.

“If you are concerned about mosquito issues, empty standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires and bird baths, remove temporary pools of water around your house and yard, repair your screen doors and window screens to keep mosquitoes out, and it couldn’t hurt to hope for dryer weather,” said Frank Gorscak, Meigs MedicalReserveCorps Emergency Response coordinator. He also works for the Meigs County Health Department.

“These positive tests in mosquitoes for West Nile virus are a good reminder that arbovirus season is under way and individuals should take precautions — use insect repellents, limit exposure when mosquitoes are active, and remove breeding sources — to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites,” said Dr. Mary DiOrio, ODH medical director. “There is more mosquito activity now than we’ve seen at this time of year for several years, but still much lower than in our WNV outbreak years of 2002 and 2012.”

Here are some tips to avoid possible infection from mosquito bites:

  • Wear EPA-registered mosquito repellents whenever mosquitoes are present and follow label instructions.
  • Wear long, loose, light-colored clothing.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside.

Here are some tips to help reduce mosquito breeding around your home:

  • Remove temporary pools of water around your house and yard. Include clearing debris from ditches, cutting small channels to help pooling water drain, or filling in holes and tire ruts with dirt.
  • Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.

McCarley said township trustees approach the health department and ask to have certain roads in their areas sprayed. Mostly, he noted, spraying happens between June and September.