Ohio health officials brace for possible Zika outbreak

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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New Fears: The Zika Virus

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

State has reserved funds to deploy resources to hard-hit areas

Ohio Health Department officials touring the state said they have taken steps to make sure they have resources in place to attack a local outbreak like the one making headlines in South Florida.

The first cases of Zika contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito domestically were reported earlier this month in a northern Miami neighborhood, where the total number of those infected has now risen to 25, according to the latest figures from Florida health officials.

So far, the virus has infected more than 12,000 people in the U.S. and its territories, including 26 cases in Ohio, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While no locally transmitted cases of Zika — which can cause the serious birth defect microcephaly — have been reported outside Florida, the state health department has set aside a portion of the nearly $1 million in grant money the state recently received from the CDC to target any areas in the state hit by an outbreak, said ODH Director Rick Hodges during a stop in Dayton.

“In the case of Zika, if and when it comes here, it’s going to be very localized and very intense,” Hodges said. “If we distribute $900,000 out to 118 health districts on a per capita basis, that would be about $8,000 per local health district. That’s not enough to fight a local outbreak. So what we do is we pool some resources and purchase materials so we can surge those resources into an area that’s affected.”

The ODH, like most health departments across the country, has been forced to come up with alternative means of funding mosquito control activities to bring down mosquito populations and reduce the chance of infection because Congress has failed to pass a Zika spending bill, despite a growing outcry from Florida health officials and others for Congress to return from a seven-week summer recess and pass a Zika spending legislation.

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