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Health officials confirm a second case of Zika virus in Ohio

By LORI KURTZMAN • Feb 10, 2016 at 7:00 PM

State health officials have announced a second caase of the Zika virus in Ohio.

The Ohio Department of Health announced late Tuesday afternoon that a 21-year-old woman from Stark County who recently returned from Haiti has been confirmed to have the Zika virus. Earlier on Tuesday, it was announced that a Cleveland woman returning from Haiti also had tested positive for the virus, heightening efforts here to head off the mosquitoes that transmit Zika.

The Cleveland case of the Zika virus involves a 30-year-old woman who began experiencing symptoms of Zika on Jan. 25, while she was still in Haiti, said state health department spokeswoman Melanie Amato. She was not hospitalized and returned to Ohio last week.

The woman's symptoms were typical of Zika — fever, joint pain and rash, said Jana Rush, chief epidemiologist for the Cleveland Department of Health. The woman was not pregnant.

While Zika's symptoms are mild for most, the virus is suspected of causing a rare birth defect known as microcephaly, in which infants are born with small heads and underdeveloped brains. For that reason, officials have focused on pregnant women in their warnings against travel and mosquito exposure.

Though there have been two U.S. cases in which Zika was likely transmitted through sex, the bigger worry is mosquitoes. The virus primarily is transmitted through an infected Aedes species, the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

Experts say those mosquitoes are particularly hard to fight, because they live and breed in dog bowls and rain barrels rather than swamps and ditches.

"They like cleaner water, smaller amounts of water," said Mitzi Kline, spokeswoman for Franklin County Public Health. "They're not going to breed in stagnant pools."

Kline said Franklin County's plan is to target those smaller areas and advise residents to empty standing water in and around their homes. Depending on the weather, workers will begin using larvicide in areas where the Aedes is known to breed in April, and they'll begin trapping the mosquitoes in May.

Should a Franklin County resident contract Zika during mosquito season, the health department will treat the area where the person lives to try to reduce the mosquito population, Kline said.

"We're hopeful that we won't see a lot of direct transmission here, but it's too early to tell," Kline said. "It's going to be an interesting summer, for sure."

As of Feb. 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 35 cases of Zika virus in 12 states, but those figures don't include Ohio's cases or another announced Tuesday in Indiana. There are no known cases of mosquito-transmitted Zika within the continental United States, but cases have been confirmed in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In May 2015, Zika virus was found for the first time in northeastern Brazil and has since spread throughout much of the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

The CDC has recommended that pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant consider postponing travel to those areas. The CDC also recommends that men who might have been exposed to Zika abstain from sexual activity or use condoms with a pregnant partner for the duration of the pregnancy.

Nationwide, the response to Zika has continued to ramp up with the confirmation of new cases and mosquito season approaching. The Obama administration has said it will ask Congress for $1.8 billion to respond to the Zika virus abroad and prepare for it at home.

The Associated Press and Washington Post contributed to this report.

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