Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Mosquito test result positive for West Nile virus

Insect taken from nature preserve near Coldwater

By Shelley Grieshop
COLDWATER - State health officials received a positive result for West Nile virus in a mosquito sampling taken in July from a nature preserve north of the village.
Michelle Kimmel, environmental director for the Mercer County-Celina City Health Department, on Monday told the newspaper the positive result came from a batch of mosquitoes collected on July 23 from Baker Woods State Nature Reserve.
She wasn't shocked by the discovery, she said.
"It's not a big surprise," she said. "I firmly believe the West Nile virus has been circulating in our county for years."
The Coldwater location is one of more than a dozen mosquito test sites across Ohio that in recent weeks returned a positive result, according to state officials.
Mosquitoes collected this summer in Auglaize County have not tested positive.
The West Nile virus is common throughout the U.S., health officials said. The majority of infected people have no symptoms; only about one in five will develop a fever, headache, body ache, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, and less than 1 percent are stricken with a serious neurological illness.
Three people in Ohio have been diagnosed with West Nile virus this year. On July 29, ODH reported the first cases for 2015 - one in Cuyahoga County and another in Hamilton County. Another case recently was reported in Lucas County, ODH Communications Director Russ Kennedy said.
"There have been no human cases reported in Mercer or Auglaize counties this year," he told The Daily Standard.
Mercer County has confirmed four cases of West Nile virus in humans since 2006; three of those were diagnosed in 2012. Auglaize County has reported two cases since 2012.
A total of 11 cases of the virus were confirmed in Ohio in 2014.
Kimmel said several years ago she conducted mosquito batch testing in different areas of the county but it became too time-consuming for her work schedule. In recent years, ODH's message was to assume the virus was circulating and focus on educating the public on how to lessen the risk of infection.
ODH this year utilized funds from the 2016-2017 state budget to hire summer interns to collect mosquito samples from various sites in several counties across Ohio, Kennedy said.
Mercer and Auglaize counties' officials when asked by the state agreed to have the interns conduct local tests, he said.
"ODH wants to increase the number of mosquitoes tested from both counties to get as clear of a picture as possible about the presence of West Nile virus in mosquitoes since they can transmit the virus to people through mosquito bites," Kennedy explained.
Kimmel said the interns sought about a half dozen testing sites in Mercer County. She offered suggestions and put the interns in contact with Coldwater and Celina officials to access additional public land, she said.
Coldwater Village Administrator/Engineer Eric Thomas steered the interns to Baker Woods, which contains natural wetlands.
Thomas at a village council meeting Monday night said prior to the recent news from the state health department he had spoken to Celina officials about contracting with the city to spray for adult mosquitos. Coldwater would pay for chemicals used in the village and a fee for Celina workers to do the spraying, he said.
The plan also would direct village employees to spray chemicals on standing water in catch basins or other areas to kill mosquito larvae, Thomas explained.
The recent detection of West Nile virus near the town will speed up implementation of the plan, he said.
The Ohio Department of Health discourages spraying when no obvious threat exists because the chemicals carry their own risks, Thomas said.
"It's a fine line between the two," he said.
Local and state officials weeks ago feared the heavy rains that hit the Grand Lake area in June and early July would escalate the mosquito population this summer and increase the risk of West Nile virus in humans. No data is yet available to confirm the theory, officials said.
Kimmel said the local positive test result isn't reason to panic. However, it is a good opportunity to reiterate several precautions residents should take such as using mosquito repellant - especially at dusk and dawn - when outdoors.
Other suggestions include donning long, loose and light-colored clothing when outside. Residents also are encouraged to remove standing water from outdoor items such as buckets, tires, bird baths and pool tarps and drain children's wading pools when not in use.
- Reporter Doug Drexler contributed to this story.
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