On Tuesday the V.I. Department of Health confirmed nine new cases of Zika on St. Thomas, bringing the total number of cases in the territory to 56.
With these additional reports, St. Thomas now has 38 confirmed cases. Last week the number of cases on St. Thomas doubled, jumping from 15 to 29. To date, 18 of the 56 confirmed Zika cases have occurred on St. Croix, and St. John has had none.
Since the start of the outbreak, Health has tested 797 pregnant women for Zika in the territory. Nine of these women are presumptive positives for Zika, meaning that they were likely infected with the virus but additional testing is needed to confirm.
“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 Commissioner Michelle S. Davis said in Tuesday’s news release.
Zika’s most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, which can make it difficult to distinguish from dengue. Health urged anyone with those symptoms to get tested at one of the 12 free testing centers listed below.
David said Health will host a series of public forums on Zika, the first of which is will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 26, on at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Croix campus.
Health also plans clinician seminars on St. Thomas and St. Croix, at which attendees will hear from infectious disease specialists. The first seminar will be from 8 to 9:30 a.m. July 28 at the Schenider Regional Medical Center’s Cancer Center on St. Thomas.
“This will be a great opportunity for the public, including pregnant women and their partners, to learn more about Zika, the techniques they can use to reduce becoming infected, and ask questions,” Davis said.
According to Health, one additional case of dengue was reported on St. John 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 becoming pregnant 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
According to the WHO, eleven 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, since the virus can be passed between male and female sexual partners. Until last week there was only evidence that men could pass the virus to sexual partners, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that women can spread the virus sexually too.
The Virgin Islands has not reported any sexually transmitted cases of Zika, because when the disease is circulating locally it’s difficult to tell whether a case was transmitted through sexual contact or through the bite of a mosquito. Zika stays in semen longer than blood and a man can pass it to his female or male sex partners.
With the assistance of an Emergency Operations Center, which is staffed with CDC and Health personnel, the Zika response team as a whole has given 227 presentations throughout the territory to educate about Zika. It’s conducted 18 on St. John, 78 on St. Thomas, 131 on St. Croix.
According to the Department of 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 whether they are showing symptoms, and educational materials are being distributed in English and Spanish. Prevention tools such as mosquito nets, insect repellent and condoms are being given 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.
Local information about the Zika virus can be obtained by calling the Department of Health Emergency Operations Center at 340-712-6205. More general information about the Zika virus is available toll free at 1-800-CDC-INFO.
Health is also partnering with several labs and clinics throughout the territory to provide free virus testing for anyone showing symptoms. The department said that anyone turned away from testing or told to pay for testing can call Health, since it has agreements in place with several facilities. These places 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.