Ohio agency stops mosquito testing for West Nile

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio Department of Health will no longer test mosquitoes for West Nile virus, though some local governments plan to continue evaluating samples to guide efforts to contain the virus and the mosquito population.

The state's West Nile testing program had a yearly budget of about $265,000, but Ohio is stopping that work because of a federal funding cut, ODH spokeswoman Tessie Pollock told The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/ZHxIYk ).

Mosquito testing varies among local public health agencies in Ohio. Some had trapped mosquitoes and then used the state to conduct or confirm initial tests, while others have no testing.

In 2012, 26 local health departments submitted more than 187,000 mosquitoes to the state, and the virus was detected in about 1,200 pools in 15 counties. About 120 human cases and seven deaths in Ohio were linked to the virus, which can cause convulsions, paralysis and loss of vision in severe cases, the newspaper said.

The high numbers last year show why it's important to monitor the virus in mosquitoes, Columbus Public health spokesman Jose Rodriguez said. He said Columbus will spend an estimated $10,000 this year to do its own testing.

In surrounding Franklin County, the public health agency will use a less accurate test and sample fewer mosquitoes. Further north, the Delaware General Health District plans to send mosquitoes to Pennsylvania for testing, at a cost of $26 per pool.

Licking County Health Commissioner Joe Ebel said his county can't afford the testing -- in-house or outsourced -- and will have to guess where to spray to kill the pests based on where it traps the kind of mosquitoes connected to West Nile.

"We'll just have to focus on that kind of risk reduction, as opposed to knowing whether for sure we're addressing the right areas," he said.

Pollock said the state still will track reports of human cases and offer local officials guidance about mosquito surveillance.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com