Zika prompts Ohio health department warning

The Ohio Department of Health is warning people to protect themselves from mosquitoes this summer as concerns about the birth-defect causing Zika virus continue to spread.

The health department’s “fight the bite” campaign urges people to take precautions, such as wearing long sleeves and repairing screens or windows to keep mosquitoes out of their homes to avoid Zika and other diseases.

“You can take some simple precautions at home and when traveling to prevent potentially serious mosquito-borne and tick-borne diseases,” said ODH Medical Director Dr. Mary DiOrio. “Zika virus has received a lot of attention as a disease that can be transmitted by some mosquitoes, but there are other mosquito-borne diseases as well, including West Nile virus.”

While mosquitoes can transmit a variety of diseases, Zika has become the main concern of state and federal health officials, in part, because there are still many unknowns about the virus.

Zika has been definitively linked to the severe birth defect microcephaly, a condition in which infants are born with small heads and underdeveloped brains. Zika outbreaks in Central and South America and has led federal health officials to issue travel warnings for pregnant mothers. But the extent to which the virus can cause neurological damage in adults has yet to be determined.

The primary mosquito that transmits Zika virus is found in the tropics and southern U.S., but it is not known to be established in Ohio. But a cousin of the mosquito is found in parts of Ohio and may potentially transmit Zika virus.

Mosquitoes are usually active in Ohio from May through October.

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