Zika Virus Confirmed In Northeast Ohio

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Text updated 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10

by Sarah Jane Tribble

The first call that Zika virus had been diagnosed in Cuyahoga County arrived at the Ohio Department of Health Monday. 

The patient was 30-year-old woman traveling from Haiti, one of the countries for which the Centers for Disease Control had issued a travel alert. She had an onset of symptoms January 25, is not pregnant  and was not hospitalized, according to the department's medical director, Dr. Mary DiOrio.

A second confirmed case was reported late Tuesday. A 21-year-old Stark County man also traveling Haiting experienced an onset of symptoms on January 7 and was hospitalized one day as a precaution, according to the state health department.

"In this situation, since it's a traveler and we don't have mosquitos right now that are active in the Ohio, the guidance would be just to make sure that the individual is doing well, doesn't have any questions about zika virus. When we start having mosquitos in Ohio we'll have to do additional guidance." 

The virus is primarily transmitted through a mosquito bite and there's no indication that it can spread from person to person through casual contact. Ohio's mosquito season is from May to October and mosquitos that transmit the virus have not been found in the state.  

Eighty percent of people who contract the Zika virus show no symptoms. It's believed that the virus is present in the blood for about a week after infection, though estimates vary, DiOrio says. Those who do have symptoms will have a mild illness that lasts from several days to a week with fever, rash and headaches. The biggest concern about the virus is that it's linked to certain birth defects in pregnant women. 

On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emergency Operations Center was moved to Level 1, the agency's highest level, due to the risk of Zika virus transmission in the U.S. 

Ohio joins nearly dozen other states and the District of Columbia that have already reported cases. Ohio's state officials says preparations are being made for the 2016 mosquito season.

DiOrio says the department is not just concerned about transmission of the virus from mosquitoes to people but from people infected with the virus to mosquitos that could carry it forward.

"We know that then we're going to have to take additional precautions," DiOrio says. "We'll have to make sure that people are aware that they do have zika virus that they're going to need to protect themselves against getting bit by mosquitos. We're going to want to talk to the general public about things they can do to make sure we decrease mosquito habitats around homes."

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