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UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

_________________________________________________________
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 19, 2016

DOH Reports 9 New Zika Cases

DOH Scheduled to host Public Forum on Zika at UVI on Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Department of Health (DOH reports nine (9) new cases of Zika in the territory. According to the weekly surveillance report, the total number of confirmed positive cases in the territory is now Fifty-six (56) -- 18 cases on St. Croix and 38 cases on St. Thomas. Out of the 797 pregnant women that have been tested for Zika, nine (9) are presumptive positive.* Additionally, there are currently 23 cases of dengue in the territory (13 on St. Croix, 8 on St. Thomas, and 2 on St. John,). 

Commissioner of the Department of Health, Michelle S. Davis, PhD, stated, “Based on current research, greater than 90% of all pregnant women who test presumptive positive for Zika will deliver an infant free from the development of microcephaly.” Commissioner Davis added, “The Department of Health will be hosting the first Public Forum on Zika, on St. Croix, at the University of the Virgin Islands on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, in the Great Hall Room, from 5:30pm-7:30pm. This will be a great opportunity for the public, including pregnant women and their partners, to learn more about Zika, the techniques they can use to reduce becoming infected and ask questions. This is a first in a series of educational efforts for the community.” 

To ensure that USVI physicians have the latest scientific information available for Zika prevention and patient care, DOH is also planning a series of clinician seminars, on St. Thomas and St. Croix, with presentations by senior infectious disease specialists. The first forums and seminars on Zika will have a speaker from the CDC. The initial clinician/physician seminar will be held on St. Thomas at the Schneider Regional Medical Center’s Cancer Center Auditorium from 8:00-9:30 a.m. on July 28th.

Last week, DOH launched a series of five (5) :60 health education segments on USVI TV-2, which will be aired every Wednesday evening during TV2’s news cast, for the next four (4) weeks). DOH urges everyone to tune in and learn more about ways to protect themselves and their families.

To date, the DOH in partnership with CDC has provided 227 presentations throughout the territory, 18 on St. John, 78 on St. Thomas, 131 on St. Croix. Currently there are nine (9) CDC staff embedded in the Department of Health’s EOC, assisting with the Zika response.

According to CDC, if infected with Zika, a pregnant woman can pass the virus onto her fetus 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. Zika can also be sexually transmitted. To reduce the possibility of Zika infection, the use of condoms are encouraged.

The Department of Health continues to urge pregnant women to take advantage of the FREE Zika virus testing and other services being offered by the DOH. While Zika is primarily spread by infected Aedes species mosquitoes, the virus can also be spread sexually. To reduce the possibility of being infected with Zika, condoms should be used correctly from start to finish during sex. 

Zika is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus) mosquito, the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Many people with Zika may not know they have the virus as symptoms are usually mild and can last for several days to a week. 

The Department of Health 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; and
  • Free Zika Prevention Kit, includes educational materials, insect repellent, permethrin spray repellent, condoms to avoid sexual transmission of Zika, treatment tabs for preventing mosquitoes from breeding in standing water, and a bed net. 

The DOH urges anyone exhibiting common symptoms of Zika infection to take advantage of the FREE Zika testing offered through DOH-supported clinics throughout the territory. To protect yourself and your family from Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses, follow 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 repellent on exposed skin and treat clothes with one of several EPA-approved repellents

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.

*According to CDC, a positive Zika test result indicates that a person was likely infected recently with the Zika virus. However, this test result requires confirmation through additional testing (plaque reduction neutralization test-PRNT) performed by CDC or a CDC authorized laboratory, to confirm the presence of antibodies. These extensive tests are currently pending.

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