The Department of Health confirmed four more cases of Zika since last week and no new cases of dengue for the second week in a row.
A total of 11 cases of Zika have been confirmed since the first case was announced in late January. The current dengue outbreak has had seven confirmed cases so far.
After touring Zika response efforts in Puerto Rico for the first half of last week, Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden said the outbreak is a pressing crisis.
The CDC says that Zika could infect as many as one in five people in Puerto Rico, but Frieden said that the pace of new infections would likely be slower in the Virgin Islands due to the territory’s lower population density.
Jessica Schindelar, a communications specialist for the CDC’s Zika Emergency Operations Center based on St. Croix, said that test results are still coming back at a slowed pace, taking on average over three weeks.
Part of the reason test results were so delayed in the first weeks of the outbreak was because only one lab in Colorado could test for the virus. Schindelar said four more labs in the U.S. can now test for Zika. One of these labs is located in Puerto Rico, but until recently, testing samples from the Virgin Islands were not being sent there.
“The proximity does not make a difference as shipments get to Puerto and Colorado both within 24 hours. As of this week, the DOH has begun sending samples to the Puerto Rico lab for testing in order to share the testing burden between proficient laboratories,” Schindelar said.
All 11 of the territory’s confirmed cases of Zika have occurred on St. Croix with eight females and three males being infected. The most common symptoms have been fever, joint pain, rash, eye pain and headache.
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.
A total of 94 suspected cases of Zika have been reported throughout the territory so far with 80 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 are currently 57 suspected Zika cases on St. Croix, 35 in St. Thomas and two in St. John, but most of these cases are still pending results. Both St. Croix and St. Thomas have had an increase in suspected cases since last week. An additional 31 cases have been confirmed negative.
Zika and dengue are potentially dangerous for pregnant women, so Health is urging them to be tested for it even if they’re not displaying symptoms. 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.
“The Department of Health also continues to test pregnant women without symptoms of Zika,” Deputy Health Commissioner Kimberly Jones said in a press release.
“As of this week, 358 samples have been received from pregnant women, of those 225 results are pending,” she said. “Two were symptomatic and these were both confirmed as dengue.”
Since the possibility for 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.
Health is distributing education materials and prevention tools like mosquito nets, insect repellent and condoms to pregnant women at the following locations:
On St. Croix
– Department of Health MCH Clinic
– Department of Health WIC Clinic
– Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center
– Frederiksted Health Center
On St. John
– Health Care Connection
– Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center
On St. Thomas
– Department of Health MCH Clinic (Pediatric)
– Department of Health Community Health Clinic (Prenatal)
– Roy Lester Schneider Hospital
– East End Medical Center
Health is partnering with several labs and clinics throughout the territory to provide free virus infection testing:
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.