Heavy rains could mean bad year for West Nile Virus in Clark County

West Nile Virus found in mosquitoes in Springfield.

Clark County Health leaders warned residents to use bug spray and wear long sleeves outside after West Nile Virus was detected in mosquitoes trapped in Clark County.

No humans have been reported to have the virus this year, but 17 cases were reported last year, said Larry Shaffer, environmental director for the Clark County Combined Health District. He fears it could be worse this year because of recent heavy rains that increase the mosquito population.

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The health district traps mosquitoes and sends them to the Ohio Department of Health for testing. Samples collected near the southwest side of the city of Springfield have tested positive for West Nile, Shaffer said.

The district also sent an alert to the local medical community to speed up diagnosis of any human cases, and will continue to monitor the mosquito population.

“West Nile Virus is a disease that can be very debilitating or even mean death,” he said. “While 80 percent of the people who may catch the disease will not have any symptoms, for those that do, they may be very severe.”

The virus is most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes and can can lead to severe fever, inflammation of the brain or meningitis, according to the health district.


Symptoms usually show up from three to 14 days after someone is bitten by the infected mosquito. There is no specific treatment for the infection, the health district says, and the best way to avoid West Nile Virus is to prevent mosquito bites.

People should wear bug spray and long sleeves when outside, Shaffer said. Residents can also cut down on the mosquito population by removing all standing water from around their homes.

“Anything that can hold water for more than seven days is a potential breeding source,” he said.

Springfield resident Mia Richardson says she’s outside a lot during the summer, but doesn’t think about mosquitoes until she’s bit.

“It’s a little bit scary,” she said after hearing the virus has been found in mosquitoes in Springfield. “I definitely am going to wear more repellent when I’m out in the yard doing yard work.”

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The health district will begin fogging for mosquitoes soon, Shaffer said, to decrease the population of the bugs around the county. The chemical used to fog is safe, Shaffer said, but if anyone in the county doesn’t want their yard sprayed, they can email environmental@ccchd.com.

Health leaders waited until mosquitoes carrying the virus were found to fog, he said, because that’s the last resort in preventing mosquito-borne illness.

“The mosquito fog only kills the mosquitoes that are flying at the time,” he said.

The health district will also hold two free tire disposal days from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 12 and 18, Shaffer said. Old tires are a major breeding ground for mosquitoes.

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About one in 150 people infected with West Nile Virus will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks and neurological effects may be permanent.

Up to 20 percent of people who become infected will have milder symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for a few days to as long as several weeks.

Unmatched coverage

The Springfield News-Sun covers health and safety concerns in Clark and Champaign counties, including a Clark County resident who contracted the Zika virus while traveling and how Clark and Champaign county health districts are working to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

By the numbers:

1 in 150 — people infected with West Nile that will develop severe illness

80 — percent of West Nile Virus cases where symptoms aren’t present

20 — percent of people that will show symptoms from West Nile, including fever, body aches

17 — Cases of West Nile Virus reported in Clark County last year

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