By Linda Collins
For the Herald
MAD RIVER TOWNSHIP — Mad River Township Trustees are lending their support to the Clark County Combined Health District in its ongoing effort to monitor the mosquito populations in the township.
During the Monday, June 20 Mad River Township Trustees’ meeting, Larry Shaffer, the district’s director of environmental health, asked trustees to consent to the monitoring of township-owned areas where specific types of mosquitoes are commonly found. Shaffer noted that the information gathered at the sites would then be used by the county health district to maximize disease-control effects in the township and county.
According to Schaffer, surveillance teams would be focusing on areas in the township that are common breeding grounds for mosquitos, including detention ponds, ditches, catch basins and natural bodies of water.
“We do not believe that the Zika virus is in the mosquito population in Ohio, but we are testing for West Nile and other mosquito-borne viruses,” Schaffer said. “This mosquito surveillance program allows us to identify what diseases the mosquitos are carrying and then, take the appropriate actions to ensure the safety of township residents.”
Township Trustee President Robert McClure Jr. inquired about the collection process of the mosquito larvae and pupae samples. Shaffer explained that county officials would be setting various traps in each township of the county throughout the mosquito season. The mosquitoes are then collected, identified and tested for diseases.
Schaffer stated that only a few of the 59 species of mosquitoes in Ohio can transmit disease. However, the diseases mosquitos carry can become a serious problem for some individuals who are infected. Mosquito-borne diseases that may occur locally in Ohio include West Nile Virus, St. Louis encephalitis, La Crosse virus and Eastern equine encephalitis virus.
In 2015, there were 34 confirmed cases of West Nile Virus with two deaths, and 15 cases of La Crosse virus in Ohio. This month the Ohio Department of Health reported the first West Nile virus positive mosquito sample of 2016.
Mosquito-borne diseases can also be imported into the state by individuals who have a travel history to Colombia, Dominican Republic, Aruba, Brazil, Guyana, Haiti, Nicaragua, Pakistan and a number of African countries. These diseases include Chikungunya virus, Dengue, Japanese encephalitis, Malaria, yellow fever and the Zika virus.
As of June 8, the Ohio Department of Health has reported three cases of Dengue in women who had traveled to Columbia and the Dominican Republic. The state agency also reported 14 cases of the Zika virus and 14 cases of Malaria. All the victims had a travel history to the affected countries where mosquito-borne diseases are ongoing.
Schaffer said that it is also important for residents to take the necessary precautions to avoid exposure to mosquito-borne diseases.
“Since there is no vaccine or specific treatment for West Nile virus, residents need to follow certain preventive measures to protect themselves and their families,” said Schaffer.
When outdoors, township residents should use insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Individuals can also prevent mosquito bites by wearing lighter-color clothing that covers the arms and legs and limiting the use of colognes or perfumes, especially at dusk and during nighttime hours when mosquitos are most active.
Once a week, residents need to change the water in children’s wading pools and birdbaths and empty standing water in buckets, flowerpots, trash containers and other items that hold water, according to Schaffer.
Yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes are both container-breeding mosquitoes. Therefore, water storage containers, such as cisterns and rain barrels, should be covered tightly so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs. Township residents can also eliminate the risk of mosquito-borne diseases by covering containers without lids with wire mesh that have openings smaller than an adult mosquito.
“This is where mosquitoes most commonly lay their eggs, so it is important to eliminate these mosquito-breeding sites,” Schaffer said.
Schaffer said residents should also mosquito proof their homes by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors and to use air conditioning when possible.
In addition, the county health district is asking township residents to report dead birds which may be a sign that West Nile virus or other arboviruses are circulating between birds and the mosquitoes in the area.
For more information about the mosquito surveillance program or to request an inspection of an area believed to be mosquito breeding grounds contact the Clark County Combined Health District by email at email@example.com or by telephone at 937-390-5600.
Linda Collins is a freelance reporter for Greene County News.