SIDNEY — An investigation begun in October by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) into HIV and viral hepatitis infections among drug users in Shelby County has transitioned into a monitoring and testing phase.
So reported Sidney-Shelby County Health Commissioner Steve Tostrick and local health department Director of Nursing Margie Eilerman during a regular meeting of the Sidney-Shelby County Board of Health, Wednesday.
The ODH initiated the investigation because during a two-week time span, three HIV-positive cases were identified here after a Shelby County resident who was incarcerated in the state penitentiary was also found to have the disease.
“Three people showed up in different locations in Shelby County, a rural area, and that was enough to prompt concern,” Melanie Amato, a spokeswoman for the ODH, told the Sidney Daily News at the time.
Tostrick reported Wednesday that the state’s investigation involved identifying other individuals who may have had contact with those four and may have engaged in behaviors at risk of spreading the diseases. Among those behaviors are sharing needles for illegal drug use and sex.
“They were checking to link individuals to those four, but they didn’t find anyone else. They made as many contacts as they could. That number hasn’t spiked,” Tostrick said Thursday morning.
The ODH sends a person from Clark County to Shelby County twice each month to test people at risk of HIV and viral hepatitis.
“He’s been (coming here) for quite some time,” Tostrick said. That voluntary testing will continue, he added.
The health board discussed the need to address risky behavior here.
“The board wants to look at resources in the county and gather an idea of what we have available and coordinate an effort (to end the risk of HIV in Shelby County),” Tostrick said. “It’s not an immediate fix. We’re looking at beginning to bring resources together.”
In other business, the board:
• Discussed revisions to 2015 and 2016 department budgets.
• Updated the department’s emergency response plan.
• Held a public hearing and gave a second reading to a resolution concerning food safety program fees.
• Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Ohio Manufactured Homes Commission whereby the department will conduct manufactured-home park investigations on behalf of the commission.
• Addressed an order to remain vacant for a structure at 10887 State Route 705, Sidney.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.