On late Wednesday the V.I. Department of Health confirmed 15 new cases of Zika in the territory – all but one were on St. Thomas – which brings the total numbers of cases to 47.
To date, 18 of the 47 confirmed Zika cases have occurred on St. Croix but this week St. Thomas overtook St. Croix with more confirmed cases. St Thomas has had 29 confirmed cases, while St. Croix has 18 total and St. John has none.
“This increase was expected, based on how other mosquito borne outbreaks have occurred,” said Dr. Michelle S. Davis, Health commissioner. “For example, the number of chikungunya cases continued to rise and reached its highest level at about eight months,” she said.
“This week the majority of new cases occurred on St. Thomas,” Davis said, adding that “potential reasons include St. Thomas being more densely populated and having a higher number of residents.”
There have been 377 “reported” Zika cases in the territory since the start of the outbreak in late January, but that refers to the number of suspected cases but not confirmed ones. A total of 295 cases have come back negative for the virus and 33 are currently pending results.
Since the start of the outbreak, Health has tested 774 pregnant women in the territory.
According to the current surveillance report, no new cases of dengue were reported this week. There have been 22 cases of dengue this year: 13 on St. Croix, eight on St. Thomas and one on St. John.
In June the World Health Organization officially recommended that women in areas with local Zika transmission delay pregnancy since it confirmed that Zika can cause microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormal smallness of the head and stunted brain development. Zika also puts unborn babies at risk of other illnesses, such as eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth.
Zika’s most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, which can make it difficult to distinguish from dengue.
According to the WHO, 10 countries have reported evidence for person-to-person transmission from a man to a woman, likely through a sexual route, including vaginal and anal, and likely oral sex.
For this reason, Health is encouraging people to use condoms during sexual intercourse. At this time, the WHO and the CDC report that there is no evidence that women can transmit Zika to their sex partners.
The Virgin Islands has not reported any sexually transmitted cases of Zika, as it’s difficult to tell whether a case was transmitted through sexual contact or through the bite of a mosquito when the disease is circulating locally. Zika stays in semen longer than blood and a man can pass it to his female or male sex partners.
With the assistance of a CDC Emergency Operations Systems that activated in February, Health has given 218 presentations throughout the territory to educate about Zika. It’s conducted 18 on St. John, 72 on St. Thomas, 128 on St. Croix.
According to Health, people can protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites by following these four cautionary measures that start with a D:
– Dress: Wear protective clothing such as 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.
Health is continuing to offer free Zika testing for pregnant women regardless of if they are showing symptoms or not and educational materials are being distributed in English and Spanish. Prevention tools like mosquito nets, insect repellent and condoms are being given away free of charge 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
For local information about Zika virus, call the Department of Health Emergency Operations Center at 340-712-6205. For more general information about the Zika virus, call toll free: 1-800-CDC-INFO.
Health is also partnering with several labs and clinics throughout the territory to provide free virus testing for anyone who is showing symptoms. The department said that if you are turned away from testing or are told to pay for testing then to call Health, since it has agreements in place with several facilities. These places should not be charging for Zika testing:
On St. Croix:
– Acute Alternative Medical Group, 772-2883.
– 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.