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Health official: Only a matter of time before Zika virus reaches Ohio

A local health official believes it’s not a question of if, but when the Zika virus spreads to Ohio.

So far the virus, which is transmitted through mosquito bites, has been found in 12 states in the U.S., but not in Ohio, according to the state’s Department of Health.

All 32 confirmed cases in the U.S. were of people infected while traveling in South and Central America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s the reason many pregnant women in the U.S. are cancelling their trips to those areas, where the CDC is encouraging doctors to monitor a possible link between the Zika virus and the development of unusually small heads and brain damage in infants.

“If someone is pregnant, as a public health nurse I would definitely say to them ‘this is the advisory that has come out’ and then you give them the information, make sure they’re well informed, and then you let them make the choice,” said Amy Schmitt, a nurse practitioner at Greene County Public Health.

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Lacey Newton’s daughter is a toddler now, but she says her preoccupation with keeping her safe began long before she was born.

“They’re smaller, they have weaker immune systems than us so I’d be really scared,” said Newton, of Xenia

Schmitt said most healthy adults will only experience a fever, rash and joint pain as symptoms.

However, there are steps people can take to protect themselves from mosquitoes, Schmitt said.

She suggested using insect repellent and physical barriers such as doors, windows, and when camping outside, nets. Schmitt said to also regularly empty out any standing water in items such as buckets and bird feeders, where mosquitoes can breed.

“To keep that barrier between you and the mosquito,” Schmitt said.

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