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UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

_________________________________________________________
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 13, 2016

Virgin Islands Department of Health Reports 15 New Cases of Zika 

The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Department of Health (DOH) announced today that there are 15 new cases of Zika in the territory. According to the weekly surveillance report, the total number of confirmed positive cases in the territory now stands at forty-seven (47) -- 18 cases on St. Croix and 29 cases on St. Thomas. To date, a total of 774 pregnant women in the territory have received Zika testing. Currently, one (1) pregnant woman has been confirmed positive. 

Dr. Michelle S. Davis, Commissioner of the Department of Health addressed the spike in Zika cases, “This increase was expected, based on how other mosquito borne outbreaks have occurred. For example, the number of Chikungunya cases continued to rise and reached its highest level at about eight (8) months.” Commissioner Davis further stated, “The Department of Health is working closely with the other territories as well as the Federal Government, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to provide the educational outreach and personal protection information and free services to the Virgin Islands Community. This week the majority of new cases occurred on St. Thomas, potential reasons include St. Thomas being more densely populated and having a higher number of residents. Furthermore, the USVI adheres to the reporting requirement of the CDC; other jurisdictions in the Caribbean may have different reporting requirements and thus we may not know the actual number of cases in those areas.”

In support of the fight against Zika, the DOH continues to be vigilant in educating the public about the importance of prevention through community health education presentations, clinician and public health practitioner seminars, public service announcements, and web and social media placements. Additionally, a series of health education segments will begin airing once a week, during CBS TV-2’s News Cast, beginning Wednesday, July 13th at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. The Commissioner urges everyone to tune in and learn more about ways to protect themselves, their families and our islands against the potentially devastating effects of the Zika virus. 

To date, the DOH in partnership with CDC has conducted 218 presentations throughout the territory, 18 on St. John, 72 on St. Thomas, 128 on St. Croix. Currently there are nine (9) individuals imbedded in the Department of Health from the DC, assisting in the fight against Zika. 

Since activating its Emergency Operations Center in February 2016 to coordinate all Zika response efforts and field media and public inquiries, the DOH has been working closely with the CDC to build capacity and strengthen efforts to track the outbreak, enhance laboratory services, improve vector control and increase awareness about Zika prevention. As part of its “Fight the Bite” campaign, the DOH has increased efforts to educate the public about Zika prevention through community health education presentations, clinician and public health practitioner seminars, public service announcements, and web and social media placements. Commissioner Davis and other senior health officials from the DOH are actively been engaged with the media to provide accurate, up-to-date information on the Zika response. 

The Department continues to offer all of these 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 Department of Health urges anyone exhibiting common symptoms of Zika infection – fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes) to take advantage of the FREE Zika tests offered through DOH-supported clinics throughout the territory. 

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 during pregnancy and can be devastating to families. 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 of Health 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 (CDC) to strengthen efforts to track the outbreak, enhance laboratory services for faster testing results, and increase awareness about the virus and how to prevent it from spreading. 

The DOH urges everyone 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 www.healthvi.org and our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/virginislandsDOH. For more general information about the Zika virus, call toll free: 1-800-CDC-INFO.

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