WHEELING, WV – In addition to preparing for another season of mosquitoes, West Nile virus, and La Crosse encephalitis, the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health (BPH), are planning for Zika virus disease.

Currently, active transmission of Zika virus is occurring in many countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Fever, rash, joint pain, and redness of the eyes are the most common symptoms, usually lasting for several days to a week. While most people do not show signs of illness, Zika virus disease has recently been associated with poor pregnancy outcomes (microcephaly and other birth defects) and Guillain-Barré syndrome (nerves in the arms and legs are accidentally attacked by the patient’s own immune system).

Zika virus is transmitted primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. The mosquito acquires the virus after feeding on the blood of a person infected with Zika virus. The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, a vector for Zika virus, is widespread in counties across West Virginia. Although no human cases of Zika virus disease have been acquired in the United States, it is possible that mosquitoes in West Virginia could acquire the virus from an infected traveler who just returned from an area where Zika is spreading. If this occurred, then the mosquito could spread the disease to other people in West Virginia.

Asian tiger mosquito lays its eggs in water-filled containers. The number of mosquitoes could be reduced by emptying stagnant water from old tires, pails, barrels, cans, bottles, wading pools, flower pots, and other containers. Removing leaf litter in clogged gutters and drilling holes in the bottom of recycling containers will also eliminate mosquito breeding habitat. Many of the control methods used to reduce the mosquito vectors of local mosquito-transmitted diseases, like La Crosse encephalitis, could also eliminate the mosquito vectors capable of transmitting Zika virus.

For more information call the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department at (304) 234-3682 or visit our website at www.ohiocountyhealth.com or the West Virginia Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at (304) 558-5358.