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The Zika Virus: What central Ohioans need to know

Here you will find OhioHealth's latest information and news on the Zika Virus. This page will be updated as news becomes available, so be sure to bookmark it and check back often. The most recent updates will be at the top of the page.

May 31, 2016
Most Americans Aware of Zika Threat, But Gaps in Knowledge Remain

Mosquitoes main source of transmission, but many don't know virus can be spread through sex, HealthDay/Harris Poll finds. 

Click to read the story: 
Most Americans Aware of Zika Threat, But Gaps in Knowledge Remain


May 9, 2016
With Zika at the Doorstep, U.S. Health Officials Brace for Battle 

The mosquito-borne virus, which causes birth defects, expected to hit Gulf Coast states like Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

Click here to read the latest: 
With Zika at the Doorstep, U.S. Health Officials Brace for Battle



April 14, 2016
Zika Virus Causes Brain Defects in Babies: CDC

Agency says evidence confirms infection during early pregnancy leads to severe form of microcephaly.

Click here to read the latest: Zika Virus Causes Brain Defects in Babies: CDC


March 11, 2016
Central Ohio health experts and systems join together to talk Zika virus and mosquito protection

As concerns over the Zika virus spreading to Ohio rise, experts from the Columbus and Franklin County Health Departments and the regions four health care systems, OhioHealth, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Mount Carmel Health System, met yesterday on the topic. 

The goal: to share the latest Zika guidance from the CDC and to encourage Ohioans to adopt mosquito prevention practices in an effort to keep Zika from becoming a problem in our state.

You can watch and read coverage from Columbus news outlets by clicking on the logos below. 


With the alarming spread of the Zika virus abroad and cases starting to pop up in the U.S., worries about the relatively unknown virus are on the rise. Just this week, the World Health Organization declared a “public health emergency of international concern” over the Zika virus.

A large part of the concern is for pregnant women - who should be cautious if they’re traveling to certain tropical places, an OhioHealth infectious diseases expert warns.

“I would put its threat on the low scale with an asterisk for pregnant women.” said Joseph M. Gastaldo, MD, who specializes in Infectious Diseases at Riverside Infection Consultants.

What is it?
The Zika virus, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, has been associated with birth defects, including babies being born with small heads who can die or have long-term developmental delays.

Zika is spreading rapidly in central and South America and the Caribbean, and has been found in the United States.

Only one in five people who become infected with the Zika virus develops symptoms, which include a fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, and red eyes. There is no treatment or vaccine for the Zika virus.

Why the concern?
In May, Zika arrived in the Western Hemisphere when cases turned up in Brazil. Since then, the virus has been quickly spreading through central and South America; Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are included in the list of places with Zika outbreaks.

Until recently, the only residents of the continental U.S. who have contracted the virus did so overseas. But just this week, it was confirmed a Zika case in Texas was spread through sexual contact. Plus, as Americans travel, they can arrive home with the virus.

Is the Zika virus spreading?
By this summer, there will be cases of people who contract the disease here in the U.S. from a Zika-infected mosquito, he pointed out. The first outbreak in the U.S. likely will be in a tropical weather states such as Texas, Louisiana and Florida, where mosquitoes flourish, Gastaldo said.

“Pregnant women and women who are thinking about becoming pregnant will have to keep that in mind and take appropriate precautions.’’

Zika virus vs. West Nile Virus
Compared to influenza and the West Nile virus, the Zika virus poses a small threat, except to pregnant women, Gastaldo said. West Nile virus can cause severe fever, encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, or meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The brain damage may be irreversible.

“If I was out in the woods and getting mosquito bites, I’d be more worried about West Nile than Zika,’’ Gastaldo said.


Protect yourself
The best way to protect against the virus is to prevent mosquito bites by covering up and wearing mosquito repellant.

“The virus is here in the Americas. It’s going to be here for a while,’’ Gastaldo said. “As time goes on, I’m certain there will be increased communication with health department officials. There will be more education about it. This is something that’s going to factor into prenatal care.”



Links to additional information:

Columbus Public Health:

Franklin County Public Health:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Zika Mini Site:

World Health Organization (WHO):

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):

Ohio Department of Health (ODH):