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UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

_________________________________________________________
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 5, 2016

Health Advisory: Puerto Rico Reports First Locally Acquired Case of Zika Virus

Acting Commissioner Juan Figueroa-Serville of The Virgin Islands Department of Health is advising the people of the Territory that the Puerto Rico Department of Health reported the first locally acquired case of Zika virus infection in Puerto Rico. Zika was confirmed in a resident of Puerto Rico with no known travel history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with the Puerto Rico Department of Health to investigate how the patient may have contracted the virus. Health officials in Puerto Rico are monitoring for other cases of Zika virus infection. Due to our proximity to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands must take heed and be aware of the symptoms, treatment and most of all prevention of the spread of the Zika Virus. “The safety and welfare of the people of this Territory is a priority for the Department of Health”. We will work closely with the CDC to identify and treat any cases of the Zika Virus. No cases have been diagnosed in the Territory as of yet, however we are taking every precaution to prevent an outbreak here in the Territory,” stated Acting Commissioner Figueroa-Serville. 

The CDC has issued a travel notice advising people traveling to the US Virgin islands and Puerto Rico to take usual precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites to reduce their risk of infection with Zika virus and other mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue and Chikungunya. These steps include wearing insect repellent, using air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts when possible, and emptying standing water inside and outside the home.

Zika virus, originally identified in 1947 from Zika forest of Uganda, is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes are found throughout tropical regions of the world and are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and Chikungunya viruses. Mosquitoes become infected with the Zika virus when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus infection.

Outbreaks of Zika have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Because the Aedes species mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries. To date, Zika virus has been reported in several countries and territories in the Americas. Brazil is investigating the possible association between Zika virus infection and cases of microcephaly (smaller than expected head size) in infants. 

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Infection is thought to provide lifelong immunity. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Deaths are rare. Travelers returning from areas with Zika activity should seek medical care if they experience a fever and symptoms of infection. Health care providers in areas with reported cases should be on the alert for possible cases.

“The Virgin Islands Department of Health will conduct training for the local medical professionals, with the assistance of the CDC. We will also be conducting testing to verify any suspected cases of the Zika Virus, as early as today,” stated Dr. Esther Ellis, Epidemiologist for the Virgin Islands Department of Health.

For more information about the Zika case in the Caribbean: 

Pan American Health Organization: http://www.salud.gov.pr/Pages/Home.aspx

For more information about Zika: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/

For more information about preventing mosquito bites, visit http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites

For information on the possible association between Zika virus infection and microcephay: 
http://www.cdc.gov/zika/pdfs/possible-association-between-zika-virus-and-microcephaly.pdf

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