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The Zika virus is pictured in the transmission electron micrograph. Common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, red-eye and joint pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Athens and Ohio University officials considering precautions over Zika virus

Two cases of Zika were confirmed in Ohio, and local officials are keeping an eye on the virus. 

With the growing concerns over the Zika virus and the confirmation of two cases in Ohio, local and university officials have kept a close eye on the virus.

“It hasn’t risen to a level of concern in Ohio as of yet, but certainly there’s something," Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said. "As prevalent as mosquitos are … it could quickly unravel, but it hasn’t at this point in time. It is a concern of mine.” 

The Zika virus has been of growing concern in Central and Latin America. Common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, red-eye and joint pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concern spread to the U.S. after cases began popping up in other states like Hawaii and Florida. The two Zika cases in Ohio — one in Cleveland and one in Stark County — were due to Ohio residents returning from travels to Haiti, where they contracted the virus.

The virus is primarily transmitted through mosquito bites. The type of mosquito that carries the Zika virus is found in Florida and the tropics, according to the Ohio Department of Health. A mosquito found in Ohio could potentially carry the virus, although the type of mosquito has not been implicated in any cases yet.    

“For the individual who gets ill, it seems to be a relatively mild disease,” Dr. James Gaskell, health commissioner at the Athens City-County Health Department, said of Zika in relation to other mosquito-borne diseases. 

Gaskell also said he wouldn’t be surprised if the virus made its way north from Florida as the weather warms up. The Ohio Department of Health said 80 percent of people with the virus do not show symptoms.

The Zika virus has also been associated with microcephaly, which causes newborns to have small heads. That has especially been an issue in Brazil, which garnered widespread attention after a number of babies whose mothers had contracted Zika while pregnant were born with microcephaly.

Gaskell said if a person in Athens were to contract the virus, the department would probably ask the person to isolate themselves until the virus subsided, which he said would be about a week, in order to limit the risk of transmitting it to more people. Because there is no vaccine, preventive measures are limited. 

Patterson said possible precautions that could be practiced locally would be reporting problems of water colonies of mosquitos in areas of standing water.

Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones said the Office of Global Opportunities was alerting people going to study abroad to make sure they were aware of the necessary precautions.

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The Office of Global Opportunities said on its website that they will continue running programs in Zika-affected locations and will re-evaluate if the CDC issues a Warning Level 3, which is a warning to avoid non-essential travel.

“OHIO currently has a group of study abroad students in Mexico, and these students have been advised about Zika virus and methods of preventing mosquito bites,” its website states.

Gaskell said there is no evidence that Zika can be transmitted through saliva. Zika has been detected in semen, and the CDC recently announced an update to its guidelines on Zika, recommending that men who have travelled to or live in areas with Zika transmission should abstain from sex or use condoms, especially if they have pregnant partners.


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