The Department of Health confirmed two more cases of Zika and four more cases of dengue in the last week.
A total of 72 cases of Zika have been reported throughout the territory so far with 62 of them pending lab results. According to Health, reported cases only include positives, pending and a small number of other suspected cases, which may not have had blood drawn.
There have been 49 cases of Zika reported in St. Croix, 21 in St. Thomas and two in St. John, but most of these cases are still pending results. An additional 22 cases have been confirmed negative, since the Zika outbreak first began last month in the territory.
Five of the confirmed dengue cases have occurred on St. Croix and two on St. Thomas. These are the first confirmed cases of dengue in more than a year and Health officials expect the disease to spread.
Results are still coming in at a slowed paced for both Zika and dengue due to the demand on the one lab that is testing for Zika in Fort Collins, Colo. To confirm Zika or dengue, blood samples must go through the same level of testing.
Dan Baden, a physician for the CDC’s Zika Response Team based on St. Croix, said the weekly surveillance reports would be released every Tuesday for the duration of the outbreak to allow Health officials to incorporate results received over the weekend. Updates for dengue will be released on Tuesdays going forward.
According to Baden, it’s unclear if epidemiologists have determined if mosquitoes and people can carry Zika and dengue at the same time, but it’s theoretically possible for both of them to. Patients with suspected Zika virus infections should also be evaluated for dengue and chikungunya.
Baden said that Health and the CDC are discussing ways to improve testing capacity in the Virgin Islands, but that there is no confirmation of what if any lab equipment will be sent to the territory.
Since Zika and dengue are potentially dangerous for pregnant women, Health is urging them to seek medical care should they start experiencing symptoms like fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes.
To date, no pregnant women in the territory have been diagnosed with Zika. The disease is a concern for pregnant women, since it could be potentially linked to an increase in microcephaly, a condition that causes newborns to be born with smaller than normal heads.
“Dengue can be dangerous to all people, but especially pregnant women due to bleeding complications,” Baden said. “It is also dangerous for male partners of pregnant women to become infected with Zika, as they can pass it to the pregnant women and potentially affect the unborn children.”
Since sexual transmission of Zika has been confirmed, the CDC recommends that pregnant women use condoms during sex or refrain from having it in order to prevent passing Zika on to their babies while in the womb. Dengue could theoretically be passed on through sexual contact, but this has not been confirmed.
Health officials warned that people with suspected cases of dengue should not take ibuprofen, aspirin or aspirin-containing drugs, since these medicines can increase the risk of hemorrhage.
Baden concluded that there is no way to predict how large the Zika and dengue outbreaks will be in the territory, but that Health will be regularly updating the community.
To eliminate standing water reservoirs, Health recommends that people take the following measures:
– Empty and scrub, turn over, cover or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots or trash containers. Check inside and outside your home.
– Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.
– For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
Health recommends using Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing one of the following:
– DEET, such as that found in Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon;
– Picaridin, such as that found in Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus;
– Oil of lemon eucalyptus, such as that found in Repel and Off! Botanicals;
– IR3535, such as that found in Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart.
Health is partnering with several labs and clinics throughout the territory to provide free virus infection testing. Pregnant women and people experiencing symptoms, including fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes should seek medical advice.
On St. Croix:
– Beeston Hill Clinical Lab, 773-4990.
– Clinical Laboratory Inc. (Sunny Isle), 778-5369.
– Frederiksted Health Care, Inc., 772-0260.
– Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center, 778-6311.
– Primary Care PLLC, 718-7788.
On St. John:
– Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, 693-8900.
On St. Thomas:
– Community Medical Laboratory, 776-7444.
– Cranston/Dottin Biomedical Lab, 774-6256.
– Doctors Clinical Laboratory, 774-2760.
– Havensight Medical Laboratory, 774-5515.
– Roy Lester Schneider Hospital, 776-8311.