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Officials concerned about spread of HIV after ‘cluster’ of cases reported in Ohio County

A recent report of a “cluster” of HIV cases in Ohio County has officials concerned about the possible spread of the disease.

A recent report of a “cluster” of HIV cases in Ohio County has officials concerned about the possible spread of the disease.

It’s the largest number of cases the county has seen in years.

“That number grew from July to early August, and it grew considerably,” Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble said. “We're up to six now.”

Six cases of HIV may not seem like that large of a number, but the county has only seen five cases total in the 3 previous years.

That grouping doesn't fit the definition of an outbreak, so it's considered a cluster for many reasons.

“With this cluster, although we may have a deviation from our norm, we usually have 2-3 cases a year, we're now up to six. It's clustered together. The commonality may be place and time, but there's no single link,” Gamble said.

Hepatitis a can be considered an outbreak because it can be traced back to specific people and places. With this HIV cluster, there's no one individual or factor as to why the number continues to grow. Gamble can pinpoint a few common sources, including prostitution, intravenous drug use and needle sharing.

Now, the focus becomes making sure this stays a small cluster, and doesn't become an outbreak.

“It could go beyond what we can control. The way you limit outbreaks is either surveillance, education, or in some diseases, vaccination. In this case, it's surveillance, education, and treatment,” Gamble said.

The health department has a needle exchange program. It also offers HIV testing. And Gamble says the best way to prevent the spread is knowledge.

“Get tested,” he said. “Therefore, the other individuals you're associated with, you may not pass that on to them.”

An HIV clinic is planned for Nov. 27 from 2-7 p.m. at the Wheeling Clinic.

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