For the third week in a row, the V.I. Department of Health reported a jump in the number of Zika virus cases, bringing the total amount to 65. This week nine more cases were reported.
St. Thomas now has 45 cases – more than half of which have been reported in the last three weeks. To date, 19 of the 65 confirmed cases have occurred on St. Croix, where the local outbreak began, and St. John reported its first case this week.
Because of the developmental issues that Zika can cause to unborn babies, the Department of Health has been proactively testing pregnant women for the virus. So far 830 pregnant women have been tested for Zika throughout the territory.
Last week, nine of these pregnant women were said to be presumptive positives, three of which have been confirmed as positive for Zika since then. One additional pregnant woman has been added to the presumptive-positive total, meaning there are now seven pregnant women who were likely infected with the virus but additional testing is needed to confirm.
Health Commissioner Michelle S. Davis said last week in a news release that “Based on current research, greater than 90 percent of all pregnant women who test presumptive positive for Zika will deliver an infant free from the development of microcephaly.”
Health is ramping up education efforts as the caseload grows throughout the territory and following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent finding that both women and men can sexually transmit Zika. Until now, only men were thought to be able to transmit the disease to sexual partners.
“In response to the rise in Zika cases in the territory and the recent discovery that Zika can be transmitted sexually from women to men, the DOH is hosting a series of public forums and clinician seminars on St. Croix and St. Thomas to ensure that the public and physicians have the latest information to protect themselves, their family and their patients,” Davis said.
A public forum will be help from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Kimelman Cancer Center Auditorium on St. Thomas. The first public forum was held Tuesday on St. Croix at the University of the Virgin Islands.
Health is also planning clinician seminars on St. Thomas and St. Croix at which attendees will hear from infectious disease specialists. The first seminar will be held from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Center Auditorium at the Schneider Regional Medical. Smaller seminars will be held on St. Croix for clinicians and physicians in the next two weeks.
Zika’s most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, which can make it difficult to distinguish from dengue. Health is urging anyone experiencing these symptoms to get tested at one of the 12 free testing centers listed below.
According to Health, no new cases of dengue were reported this week. There have been 23 cases of dengue this year: 13 on St. Croix, eight on St. Thomas and two 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, including eye defects, hearing loss and impaired growth.
According to the WHO, 11 countries have reported evidence for person-to-person transmission from a man to a woman, likely through a sexual route.
For this reason, Health is encouraging people to use condoms during sexual intercourse.
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.
With the assistance of CDC support staff and an Emergency Operations Systems that Health activated in February, Health has given 232 presentations throughout the territory to educate about Zika: 18 on St. John, 80 on St. Thomas and 133 on St. Croix. There are currently 10 CDC staff assisting Health with its response effort.
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 such as 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,)
– Schneider Regional Medical Center,
– East End Medical Center.
Local information about the Zika virus can be obtained by calling 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 anyone who is turned away from testing or is told to pay for testing can call Health, since it has agreements in place with several facilities. The following should not charge 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