The USVI Department of Health’s Zika Surveillance Report (doh.vi.gov), for this week, shows an increase in positive cases reported among pregnant women, however, these new positive cases are due to a three-month lag in the reporting period, not a surge in new reported cases. The lab test used to confirm positive Zika infection can detect infections that occurred up to three months ago; the test itself takes several weeks to complete. This week’s newly reported cases among pregnant women reflect infections that occurred in August to October, which overlaps with the most active period of reported cases of Zika to date. Department of Health (DOH) continues to urge pregnant women to strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika virus.
Since the onset of the outbreak the DOH’s top priority in the Zika response has been to protect pregnant women by providing free mosquito control services at their homes, Zika prevention kits (including bed nets, repellents, condoms, educational materials, larvicides dunks and permethrin spray), and free Zika testing. The DOH activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on February 10, 2016 to coordinate a proactive response to the Zika outbreak. Since the EOC was activated, DOH’s Zika response activities have included:
Partnering with a network of 12 clinics (doh.vi.gov) and labs across the territory to provide free Zika testing services for pregnant women and anyone with Zika symptoms.
Distributing 1,387 free Zika Prevention Kits to pregnant women throughout the territory.
Conducting369 outreach education events to the community and USVI clinicians; 191 on St. Croix and 178 on St. Thomas/St. John.
Distributing over 10,000 EPA-approved repellents have been given out to the public to date.
Providing free mosquito control services at the homes of pregnant women, as well as free mosquito inspection and treatment for all hospitals, clinics, schools, daycare centers, churches, for public places.
DOH is grateful for the support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). To date, CDC staff have completed 91 deployments to assist USVI Department of Health with Zika response and DOH has hired four local staff through ASTHO to support the response long-term.
DOH continues to partner with various community events to educate the public about Zika and provide prevention resources. This past Saturday, January 14, 2017, DOH staff provided free Zika testing, insect repellents and educational materials at the Bordeaux Farmers’ Vegan Fair on St. Thomas. DOH staff are getting ready for the St. Croix Agricultural Fair that is to be held from February 18-20, 2017.
CDC recommends that all women living in an area with Zika be tested twice during her pregnancy, at the first prenatal visit and a second test in the second trimester. As a result of this recommendation, pregnant women in USVI are tested, even if they are not experiencing any Zika symptoms. Although Zika cases seem to be declining is USVI, the DOH would like to remind residents that Zika is still in the territory and encourage everyone to continue to take precautions to prevent Zika infection. And remember to:
Dress – wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants
Drain – at least once a week, get rid of standing water in and around your home where mosquitoes can lay eggs
Defend – use an EPA-registered insect repellent, and treat clothes with permethrin