Health districts in Clark and Champaign counties will trap and test mosquitoes to prevent the spread of diseases with the assistance of grant money from the Ohio EPA as each has had a positive case of the Zika virus.
Clark County was awarded about $44,000 to trap mosquitoes and collect tires, while Champaign County was awarded about $39,000.
A confirmed case of the Zika virus was reported in a Clark County neighborhood earlier this month when a traveler returned home from a Zika hot spot. Neighbors were told to remove any items that could hold standing water from their lawn and to protect themselves with bug spray.
One case was also reported in a Champaign County resident in August 2016. That resident had also just returned from travel.
“The major concern with the active Zika case in Clark County has subsided,” said Larry Shaffer, environmental director for the Clark County Combined Health District. “But we want people to know that there are other viruses that are endemic in Ohio like West Nile virus.”
Statewide, 94 Zika cases acquired outside Ohio during travel were confirmed last year. So far this year, three cases of the virus acquired outside Ohio during travel have been reported statewide. No cases have been found of the virus being transmitted by a mosquito in Ohio in 2016 or 2017 so far.
The money from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will be used to determine if mosquitoes that carry the dangerous viruses are in the area, Shaffer said.
“If the disease is caught early,” he said, “then we’ll be able to get results out to the public for advanced warning.”
The Clark County health district will hire a summer intern to set traps, package mosquitoes and send them to the Ohio Department of Health for testing.
The traps will be placed in neighborhoods known to have high mosquito populations.
“If someone believes their area has a relatively higher population of mosquitoes,” he said, “they’re welcome to call the health district and we’ll set traps there.”
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It will also host two tire amnesty days, he said, where residents can bring up to 10 tires to be disposed.
“Tires are not only a general breeding ground for mosquitoes but tires hold relatively clean water,” Shaffer said. “It’s that kind of water that attracts the Zika mosquito.”
As summer nears, residents should take action to prevent mosquito reproduction, he said
“We encourage everybody to reduce the amount of standing water in and around their homes,” Shaffer said. “It only takes a tiny bit of water that’s standing for seven days to reproduce mosquitoes.”
Springfield resident Nancy Rigsby lives near where the Clark County Zika case was confirmed. She was concerned when a neighbor was diagnosed, she said, but the mosquito trapping makes her feel safer.
“There is a little bit of an element of concern and you wonder how your community is going to take care of the problem,” she said. “I think they handled it really well.”
She takes her own precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
“I do have the lawn sprayed and I do always put something on,” she said, “because I like to walk a lot.”
More information about mosquito-borne illnesses is available on the Clark County Combined Health District’s website at ccchd.com.