The Ohio EPA has awarded nearly $700,000 in grants to counties across the state to help prevent the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika, including about $37,000 for Champaign County.
Champaign County has a unique approach to monitoring mosquitoes, said Dr. Craig Butler, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The plan proposed by the Champaign County Health District includes assisting local cities and villages in spraying for mosquitoes, like Mechanicsburg and Urbana, he said.
“The funding is going to be very helpful in what we do as far as our surveillance,” Champaign County Health Commissioner Jeff Webb said.
A Champaign County man was diagnosed with the Zika virus last month after traveling out of the country. Health officials monitored the area near the patient’s home to look out for mosquito breeding sites and make sure the virus wasn’t transmitted to other mosquitoes, the Springfield News-Sun previously reported.
“My concern is pretty small as far as transmission within our community,” he said.
The EPA grant will go toward continued trapping and testing of mosquitoes, he said, as well as spraying and education. It will also go to removing scrap tires, which are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Steve Moore from the health district traps mosquitoes across the county once a week, and sends them to a lab in Columbus to determine if they’re the type that could carry viruses.
“I try to pick areas that they haven’t sprayed heavily,” Moore said.
Recent rains have increased the amount of mosquitoes in his traps, he said.
This kind of surveillance is vital to preventing the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, Butler said.
“We have no Zika transmission in the state currently,” he said. “We’re very concerned about that and we want to be in a position that if we get to a point, that we’re well positioned and able to eradicate it in Ohio.”
The Ohio EPA didn’t feel it could wait for federal funds to send more money to the counties for this purpose, Butler said. The money for the grants will come from the state’s scrap tire fund, he said.
The Ohio Department of Health continues to recommend pregnant women avoid travel to countries where the Zika virus is prevalent, Director Mary DiOrio said.
An updated list of countries to avoid is available on the CDC’s website, she said.
No cases of Zika have been reported in Clark County, Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said. The county is also continues to trap and monitor mosquitoes that could potentially carry viruses. Clark County didn’t receive any funding from this round of grants from the Ohio EPA.
The Ohio EPA also has reached out to the Ohio Department of Agriculture to see about guidelines for how spraying for mosquitoes might affect honey bees, which are critical to pollinating crops and other plants.
“We want to make absolutely certain that if they’re applying insecticides, they do it at the right place and at the right time and that we don’t see a measurable impact on the honey bee population in the state,” Butler said.