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UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

_________________________________________________________
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 28, 2016

U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health Reports Three New Zika Cases

Zika Can be Sexually Transmitted; DOH Urges Pregnant Women
to Take advantage of Free Services and Get Tested

The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health reports three (3) new cases of Zika in the territory. According to the weekly surveillance report, there are 29 confirmed positive cases in the territory, 12 cases on St. Thomas, 16 on St. Croix and 1 on St. John. Currently, one (1) pregnant woman has been confirmed positive; a total of 727 pregnant women in the USVI have had a Zika test. 

Additionally, 22 cases of dengue have been confirmed; there are five (5) new cases on St. Croix and two (2) new cases on St. Thomas. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a man with Zika can transmit the virus to his sex partner(s) through sexual intercourse, including vaginal and anal sex, and likely, oral sex. The CDC reports that at this time there is no evidence that a woman with Zika can transmit the virus to her sex partners, and there is no evidence that Zika can be transmitted through deep kissing. As such, The Department of Health (DOH) is encouraging that condoms ought to be used during sexual intercourse.

The Health Commissioner, Dr. Michelle S. Davis emphasized the need for everyone to work together to prevent the spread of Zika in the USVI. “While there is no vaccine for Zika, we are encouraging all pregnant women and anyone exhibiting symptoms of Zika to take advantage of the free Zika services being offered by the Department of Heath, to protect ourselves and our families from the potentially devastating health effects of this virus,” she said.

In support of the efforts to prevent the increase of Zika cases, the DOH is increasing its efforts to educate the public about ways of prevention, through community outreach efforts and Public Service Announcements (social media, radio, online news outlets and newspaper), targeting residents throughout the territory. The DOH will continue offering the following FREE services to pregnant women:

  • Free Zika testing at 12 locations throughout the islands;
  • Free Inspections to look for mosquito larvae and mosquito breeding grounds at/around her house;
  • Free Larvicide treatment if mosquito larvae are found at/around her house;
  • Free Zika Prevention Kit, includes educational materials, insect repellent, permethrin spray repellant, condoms to avoid sexual transmission of Zika, treatment tabs for preventing mosquitoes from breeding in standing water, and a bed net. 

The DOH is also offering free Zika tests to anyone exhibiting common symptoms of Zika infection, to include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). 

Zika is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus) mosquito and can also be transmitted sexually. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Many people might not realize that they have been infected with the virus, as symptoms can be mild, lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Others may be infected and have no symptoms. 

The effects of the Zika virus are much more severe for pregnant women. If infected with Zika, pregnant women can pass the virus onto their unborn child during pregnancy or during delivery. Zika has the potential to cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly – a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected because the brain has not fully developed during pregnancy or has stopped growing after birth. In addition to microcephaly, fetuses and infants infected with the Zika virus before birth can also have other illnesses such as eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth.

In February 2016, the department activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate all Zika response efforts and field media and public inquiries. Additionally, they have been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen efforts to track the outbreak, enhance laboratory services for faster testing results, and increase awareness about virus and how to prevent it from spreading.

Representatives from the DOH stress that there are simple steps everyone can take to protect themselves and their families from Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses by following the 4 Ds of prevention:

  • Dress – wear protective clothing – long sleeves, long pants and light colors
  • Drain – get rid of water containers in and around your home that can serve as breeding places for mosquitoes
  • Defend – use repellant on exposed skin and treat clothes with one of several EPA-approved repellants
  • Discuss – spread the word about the simple things you can do to make a difference

For local information about the Zika virus or to receive any of the Department of Health’s free services, call the Department of Health Emergency Operations Center at (340) 712-6205 or visit doh.vi.gov and our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/virginislandsDOH. For more general information about the Zika virus call toll free: 1-800-CDC-INFO.

As part of these efforts, the Department of Health in collaboration with CDC continues to be engaged in several outreach efforts. This week’s outreach events include:

  • June 28: Flamboyant Garden Home presentation 9:00 – 10:00 AM 
  • June 28: St. John Carnival Festival Village Opening (Cruz Bay Parking Lot - St. John) 7:00 – 10:00 PM
  • July 2: Summer Splash (Tamarind Reef Resort – St. Croix) 12:00 – 4:00 PM
  • July 2: 7th Day Adventist (Christiansted Mid Island – St. Croix) 4:30 – 5:15 PM 

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