There have not been any laboratory-confirmed cases of dengue in the territory for 2019. Additionally, there have been no cases of Chikungunya since 2016, and the last two cases of Zika were in January of 2018, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health (Health).
The U.S.V.I. has not had a dengue outbreak since 2012, and there have been less than a dozen cases of dengue since January 2016 in the territory. The Department of Health reminds the public to stay vigilant to mosquito control and protection measures, as there have been confirmed cases of dengue in the British Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Miami and Puerto Rico, and conditions are favorable for an outbreak in the V.I.
“The spike in new dengue cases on neighboring islands is a reminder that we must remain cautious in protecting ourselves and our most at-risk population — children, the elderly and immune-compromised individuals from this virus,” said Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion.
Territorial epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis added that it is possible that dengue is circulating in the territory, but has not been detected yet. Health is currently testing approximately 50 samples a week for dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, and has not had a confirmed positive case yet. Ellis did caution that outbreaks usually occur every three to five years, which means the territory could have an outbreak anytime now. Outbreaks are related to the concept of herd immunity.
This means that people who have had a particular strain of dengue before are immune to that strain and cannot be carriers for the virus helping to spread it along. If a new strain that people haven’t had is introduced or enough people who have never been infected by dengue before are around, an outbreak is more likely to happen.
Dengue is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus) mosquito. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Many people might not realize that they have been infected with the virus because symptoms can be mild, lasting for several days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Others may be infected and have no symptoms.
Health offers free testing for mosquito viruses, including dengue. If people suspect they might have dengue, see a doctor, who can submit a sample and suspect case notification to Health for laboratory testing. Health urges providers to be on the lookout for possible dengue cases in light of cases on neighboring islands.
The Department of Health encourages residents to take measures to ensure there are no mosquito breeding sites around their homes by removing debris and draining excess water from plant pots. There are simple steps everyone can take to protect themselves and their families from dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses by following the 4 Ds of prevention:
• Dress – wear protective clothing – long sleeves, long pants and light colors
• Drain – get rid of water containers in and around your home that can serve as breeding places for
• Defend – use repellent on exposed skin and treat clothes with one of several EPA-approved repellents
• Discuss – spread the word about the simple things you can do to make a difference
For local information about the dengue virus or to receive any of the Department of Health’s free services, call the Department of Health Epidemiology Division at 718-1311 or visit www.doh.vi.gov or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/virginislandsDOH. For more general information about the dengue virus, call toll free: 1-800-CDC-INFO.