The Ohio Department of Health is making an effort to increase awareness about the Zika virus as more people begin to travel during the spring and summer months.
The ODH is using social media to increase awareness about the virus, putting ads that will appeal to college students and families on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. The ads give tips on what to bring when vacationing in areas where the Zika virus is being transmitted.
“We want you to have a safe spring break, which includes taking precautions and keeping yourself protected from mosquitoes,” said Dr. Mary DiOrio, medical director of ODH.
The Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the yellow fever mosquito, which is native to tropic areas and the southern United States. While there have been no reported instances of the virus being transmitted through mosquito bites in Ohio or the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there have been eight reported cases in Ohio from people returning from travel.
“We recommend that (people) do what they can to protect themselves from getting bitten by mosquitoes because that’s the primary way that the infection is contracted,” DiOrio said. “Wearing EPA registered insect repellent, long sleeves, pants, staying indoors with air-conditioning or where there are screens on the windows are some of the best things that people can do to protect themselves.”
The ODH especially warns against pregnant women travelling where they might get infected due to a possible correlation between infections from the Zika virus and birth defects.
Once the virus is contracted it cannot spread from person to person through casual contact, but it can spread through sexual contact. The Zika virus can be sexually transmitted from a man to his partners, but according to a press release from the ODH there is no evidence that a woman can transmit the disease.
The ODH Laboratory announced Wednesday that it is now able to conduct its own Zika testing at a quicker pace than before.
“By conducting our own initial Zika virus testing on patients within seven days of symptom onset, we can significantly speed up initial test results for patients who are anxiously waiting on them,” DiOrio said. “We anticipate sharing initial test results with submitters, such as doctors’ offices, hospitals or local health departments, within 48 hours of receiving the blood specimen.”
After the blood tests have been processed, the lab forwards the results to the CDC for confirmation.
There are 193 reported cases in the United States that are travel-associated, as of March 9, 2016. Thirty-two states have reported cases and Ohio ranks in the top 10 for highest number of reported cases. Florida currently has the highest amount of reported cases with 49.
Around 80 percent of those infected with the virus will not experience any symptoms. According to the ODH, those who are infected will likely encounter fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes. Hospitalization from the infection is rare.
There is an additional mosquito, the Asian tiger mosquito, that may potentially carry the disease, but it has not been confirmed yet if it could transmit the disease to humans. This mosquito resides in 37 Ohio counties.