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UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

_________________________________________________________
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 26, 2016

Department of Health Reports 9 New Zika Cases

DOH hosts Public Forums on Zika, today and tomorrow

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 Sixty-five (65) -- 19 cases on St. Croix, 45 cases on St. Thomas, and one (1) on St. John. Out of 830 tests completed for pregnant women, ten (10) have laboratory evidence of Zika; seven (7) are presumptive positive,* and three (3) are confirmed. There is no change to the number of Dengue cases. 

Commissioner of the Department of Health, Michelle S. Davis, PhD, stated, “In response to the rise in Zika cases in the territory and the recent discovery that Zika can be transmitted sexually from women to men, the DOH is hosting a series public forums and clinician seminars on St. Croix and St. Thomas, to ensure that the public and physicians have the latest information to protect themselves, their family and their patients.” 

To ensure that pregnant women, their partners, and the public at-large are fully informed about Zika, the Department of Health is hosting two (2) public forums. The first will be held today, Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Croix from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Great Hall. The second public forum will be on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at the Kimelman Cancer Center Auditorium on St. Thomas from 5:30-7:30 pm. These public forums are a part of a series of community outreach events conducted by the DOH to provide the public, with an emphasis on pregnant women and their partners, an opportunity to learn more about the Zika virus. 

The first clinician/physician seminar will be held on St. Thomas at the Schneider Regional Medical Center in the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Center Auditorium from 8:00-9:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 28, 2016. DOH is also planning a series of smaller seminars for clinicians and physicians on St. Croix over the next two weeks. 

To date, the DOH in partnership with CDC has provided 232 presentations throughout the territory, 18 on St. John, 80 on St. Thomas, 133 on St. Croix. Currently there are ten (10) CDC staff imbedded in the Department of Health’s Emergency Operations Center (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. 

While Zika is primarily spread by infected Aedes species mosquitoes, the virus can also be spread sexually. To reduce the possibility of Zika infection, the use of condoms are encouraged. 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 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. 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. 

To protect yourself and your family from Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses, follow the 3 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

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

*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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