USVI reports nine new zika cases

The US Virgin Islands (USVI) Department of Health (DOH) has reported nine 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 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 are presumptive positive. Additionally, there are currently 23 cases of dengue in the territory (13 on St Croix, eight on St Thomas, and two 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.”

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. This will be an 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 on July 28.

Last week, DOH launched a series of five health education segments on USVI TV-2, which will be aired every Wednesday evening during TV2’s newscast, for the next four weeks). DOH urged 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 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 is 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.

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