The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Department of Health reported two new cases of Zika in the territory. According to the weekly Zika surveillance report, the total number of confirmed positive cases in the USVI is now 26, 16 cases on St. Croix, 9 cases on St. Thomas and 1 on St. John. There is also one (1) new case of Dengue confirmed this week. To date, 690 pregnant women in the USVI have received Zika testing, in which one (1) pregnant woman has currently been confirmed positive. 

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

“The Department of Health continues to be proactive in providing education on ways of prevention, free testing, free inspections (to include larvicide treatments), and free Zika Prevention Kits for pregnant women and individuals exhibiting symptoms (such as fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes),” said Dr. Michelle S. Davis, Commissioner of the Department of Health.

In February 2016, the department activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate all Zika response efforts and field media/public inquiries. Additionally, they have been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen efforts to track the outbreak, enhance laboratory services for faster testing results and educate the populace.

Commissioner Davis also explained in detail the FREE services that the department is providing to combat the virus:

  • 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. 

By following the 4 Ds of Zika prevention the DOH says everyone can protect themselves and their families:

  • Dress – wear protective clothing – long sleeves, long pants and light colors
  • Drain – get rid of water containers in and around your home
  • 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

“At the DOH we will continue to stress the importance of protecting ourselves, our loved ones and our islands from the possible devastating health effects of this virus and encourage our residents, especially pregnant women in the territory, to take advantage of the free services offered by the Department of Health,” Commissioner Davis stated.

Zika is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti species mosquito. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected or may be infected and have no symptoms. Zika can also be contracted orally and sexually. 

Pregnant women are the most vulnerable; the effects are much more severe. If infected with Zika, they can pass the virus onto their unborn child, which has the potential to cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly. Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex. Sometimes detected at birth, microcephaly usually is the result of the brain developing abnormally in the womb or not growing as it should after birth.