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UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

_________________________________________________________
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 1, 2016

Zika Virus is Declared a Public Health Emergency of
International Concern by the World Health Organization Director-General

Department of Health Acting Commissioner Juan Figueroa –Serville and Dr. Michelle Davis the HHS Regional Administrator have fully initiated task force efforts in the wake of the World Health Organization’s first meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC). The Committee convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations regarding clusters of microcephaly cases and other neurologic disorders in some areas affected by Zika virus was held by teleconference this afternoon.

The Committee advised that the recent cases of microcephaly and other neurologic disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
As a precautionary measure, the World Health Organization (WHO) made the following additional recommendations:
Zika virus transmission

Surveillance for Zika virus infection should be enhanced, with the dissemination of standard case definitions and diagnostics to at-risk areas.

The development of new diagnostics for Zika virus infection should be prioritized to facilitate surveillance and control measures.

Risk communications should be enhanced in countries with Zika virus transmission to address population concerns, enhance community engagement, improve reporting, and ensure application of vector control and personal protective measures.

Vector control measures and appropriate personal protective measures should be aggressively promoted and implemented to reduce the risk of exposure to Zika virus.

Attention should be given to ensuring women of childbearing age and particularly pregnant women have the necessary information and materials to reduce risk of exposure.

Pregnant women who have been exposed to Zika virus should be counseled and followed for birth outcomes based on the best available information and national practice and policies.

Travel measures

  • There should be no restrictions on travel or trade with countries, areas and/or territories with Zika virus transmission.
  • Travellers to areas with Zika virus transmission should be provided with up to date advice on potential risks and appropriate measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to mosquito bites.
  • Standard WHO recommendations regarding disinfection of aircraft and airports should be implemented.

“This declaration by the WHO will afford the territory additional resources. These resources include, but are not limited to staffing, supplies additional testing and educational assistance” stated Dr. Davis.

Acting Commissioner Serville stated; “We at the Department of Health are read willing and able to serve the people of the Virgin Islands. We will be going door to door in the effected areas, providing mosquito larvacide, information and assistance in the wake of this virus. I am asking all Virgin Islanders to take precautionary measures to protect yourselves and your families and in the event that you experience any symptoms, please see your physician immediately.”

For more information, please visit our Zika page.

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