Local health officials will begin trapping and testing mosquitoes for the Zika virus next month, Delaware County commissioners learned Monday.
Shelia Hiddleson, Delaware County health commissioner, reported to county commissioners on plans for tracking mosquitoes and the Zika virus.
The health district will start setting mosquito traps in May and June when day-time temperatures are between 60 to 65 degrees. The traps are set around places of stagnant water and heavily wooded areas, according to Adam Howard, program manager for the health district.
“We are anticipating at least to be able to use some of our public health emergency preparedness dollars for some Zika response,” Hiddleson said.
The traps currently used don’t trap the types of mosquitoes that transmit the virus. The emergency preparedness dollars will be used to purchase the correct type of trap and to hire two interns for the summer, Hiddleson said.
The interns will check the traps daily and test mosquitoes for the Zika virus, according to Traci Whittaker, public information officer for the health district.
“There have not been any cases of Zika virus reported in Delaware County,” Whittaker said.
The mosquitoes stay within a 200-meter radius and are active during the day. “It’s a day-time biting mosquito,” Howard said. That fact makes it hard to fog an area when people are also active outside. To combat the mosquitoes, fogging is done during dusk when there are fewer people out, Howard said.
The health district will also be proactive in taking steps to eliminate breeding sites of mosquitoes, Whittaker said.
An area will only be fogged when it has been found to contain the Zika-carrying mosquito. “The health district only fogs in response to finding disease,” said Hiddleson, in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Zika virus is only known to be transmitted through the bite of a mosquito or sexual contact with someone who carries the virus, Whittaker said.
The virus is mainly spread through mosquito bites and causes mild or no symptoms in most people. Officials are investigating whether there’s a link between Zika infections in pregnant women and a rare birth defect. Ohio has had at least four confirmed cases.
Travis Irvan, an epidemiologist at the Delaware General Health District, has said the reason Zika virus has gained a lot of attention nationally is because officials believe there is a link between Zika and microcephaly, a birth defect causing abnormal smallness of the head, and with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which causes the immune system to attack nerves.
The health district is also trapping and testing mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus, Whittaker said.