West Nile spreading, more people being tested

As West Nile virus seems to be making a resurgence this summer, local health officials are trapping and testing mosquitoes, spraying insecticide and urging residents to clean up standing water and use mosquito repellent .

The Ohio Department of Health shows the state has recorded nine human cases of the virus this year, including one each in Clark and Miami counties.

And a Montgomery County man was diagnosed with the disease earlier this month by his doctor, but his case isn’t yet counted among the state’s cases as officials wait for lab tests to be completed.

In Miamisburg, Jason Brooks, 41, started to feel sick with flu-like symptoms around July 24, said his wife, Megan. Within a few days, Jason developed a skin rash. When he didn’t recover after about a week, his wife sent him to the doctor, sure he had West Nile virus.

“They all kind of laughed at me, but then they called and said it was West Nile,” said Megan Brooks, a licensed practical nurse. Workers from Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County talked to her husband, and the couple got lab results from Jason Brooks’s doctor saying he had West Nile. Megan Brooks said county health workers told her they had to wait for the state to confirm her husband’s infection.

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County spokesman Bill Wharton said 80 percent of people who get West Nile never develop symptoms, so they never see a doctor to get tested.

Miami County Health Commissioner Chris Cook said Thursday that his county’s case hasn’t been confirmed. “It’s a probable case, and it’s going to remain a probable case,” he said. The person who became ill had been traveling out of state during the incubation period for West Nile, Cook said, so if it is the virus, he didn’t contract it in Miami County.

The Ohio Department of Health uses several criteria to confirm infectious disease, looking for antibodies from viruses or bacteria as well as clinical symptoms. If the right test isn’t ordered, a case that looks like, and likely is, a particular infection may never move from the “probable” column to the confirmed column.

The Ohio Department of Health is seeing the highest number of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile since they started testing for it in 2002, said spokeswoman Tessie Pollock. Drought conditions make for perfect breeding conditions for the mosquito species that carries West Nile. Several pools of mosquitoes have tested positive in Montgomery County.

West Nile virus, which first emerged in North America in 1999, is making national headlines in Texas, where health officials have recorded more than 380 cases and 17 deaths. More than 200 infections and 10 deaths were recorded just in Dallas County.

There’s no vaccine against the disease, and no specific treatment. The best line of defense is to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes that spread it, public health officials say.

In Miami County, the health department doesn’t trap and test mosquitoes or use insecticide sprays or mosquito dunks to kill mosquitoes, Cook said. There’s no money in the budget for either step, he said.

Instead, they concentrate on educating residents to clean up standing water and weeds on their property and to use mosquito repellent and protective clothing to prevent bites.

In Greene County, crews are spraying insecticide to kill adult mosquitoes in the Yellow Springs area, where mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile virus. The county also uses mosquito “dunks” to kill larvae in areas where residents complain of high levels of mosquito activity.

In Dallas, city officials this week authorized aerial spraying of insecticide to kill mosquitoes for the first time since 1966, when encephalitis killed more than a dozen people in the city.

“The number of cases, the number of deaths are remarkable, and we need to sit up and take notice,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Wednesday. “We do have a serious problem right now.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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