Indiana receives big grant to combat Zika virus

Indiana receives big grant to combat Zika virus

CLARK COUNTY, IN (WAVE) - The state of Indiana was awarded $3.6 million through multiple grants to tackle the Zika virus over the next five years.

The Indiana State Department of Health says it will use the money to investigate illnesses, conduct mosquito surveillance and lab testing and public health preparedness efforts to increase awareness.

As of Aug. 5, there were 27 confirmed cases of Zika in Indiana. State officials say the risk of widespread local transmission is low because all the Zika cases involving Indiana residents are believed to be travel-related.

The Clark County Health Department says a Sellersburg man tested positive after traveling to an area where mosquitoes carrying the virus are present.

Nonetheless, this has prompted the town to take immediate action.

"They're going with their trucks and their routes and they are trying to knock down the population of mosquitoes in the area," Clark County Registered Environmental Health Specialist Doug Bentfield said.

A large portion of the state funds will help identify and investigate cases of Microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to born with underdeveloped brains.

"Microcephaly is one of the adverse outcomes that has been associated with Zika virus infection during pregnancy," State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Brown said.

The most serious risk is to pregnant women. The main way the virus is transmitted is through the bite of a yellow fever mosquito, which you won't find in Indiana.

The Asian tiger mosquito can also carry the virus, which is less common, but can be found in the state.

Zika can also be sexually transmitted or through blood transfusions.

What's concerning is that only one in five people infected will develop mild symptoms such as fever, rash and red irritated eyes, so testing is key.

Bentfield said Clark County is using a nearly $3,000 grant to be proactive against Zika and West Nile.

"We plan on buying some additional chemicals," Bentfield said. "We plan on buying some backpacks, so we can go from one crews to two crews. And also we're going to have more of a capability to do some adulticiding in response to the Zika concerns."

He also hopes to receive some money from the nearly $4 million grant awarded to the state.

"The mosquito programs are struggling to keep going because with all these new outbreaks, with the West Nile and now Zika and other diseases on the horizon, we're having to spend more time and create more crews just to handle what's coming," Bentfield said.

The key to prevent a breeding ground for mosquitoes at your home is to take care of your property, clean out gutters and empty anything else with standing water. Personally, you can wear long sleeves and pants in the evening and used DEET-based products when outside.

Kentucky gets grant money too

The state of Kentucky also received funding in the battle against Zika.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded the Commonwealth $758,000.

At this time no Zika cases have been confirmed in Kentucky, but earlier this week mosquitoes found in south Louisville tested positive for the West Nile virus.

Kentucky health officials ensure the threat of a Zika outbreak in the state is low, but do warn people about traveling to Zika-infected areas.

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