The first confirmed case of Zika on St. Thomas was reported Monday, almost two months after the territory’s outbreak began on St. Croix.
According to a Virgin Islands Department of Health press release, a 39-year-old man on St. Thomas has tested positive for Zika.
Jessica Schindelar, a communications specialist for the Centers for Disease Control’s Zika Emergency Operations Center based on St. Croix, said that the man’s sample had been taken about a month ago.
An influx in testing demand on the limited number of labs that can test for Zika in the U.S. has made results come back slower than health officials would like.
“We expect there will be more cases on all three islands as more lab results come back,” Schindelar said.
Prior to today’s announcement, all 11 of the territory’s confirmed cases of Zika occurred on St. Croix.
“To date, 243 total samples have been received from the St. Thomas and St. John district. Of these, 45 were received from symptomatic individuals,” Health Commissioner Nominee Michelle Davis said in a press release issued Monday. “The DOH has also received test results for nine samples: two of which were dengue positive as previously reported, and the one Zika positive case we are reporting today; the remaining six were negative.”
Health is testing all pregnant women for Zika regardless of whether they’re showing symptoms of infection. A total of 402 pregnant women have been tested and 152 results have come back negative while the rest of the samples are pending results.
“CDC has recommended all asymptomatic pregnant women residing in areas with ongoing Zika virus transmission be tested at the initiation of prenatal care with follow-up testing mid-second trimester,” Deputy Health Commissioner Kimberly Jones added.
Schindelar said that Health is focusing on strengthening community outreach, increasing local lab capacity and implementing vector control efforts.
An international firm called Vector Disease Control International is currently working in the territory on 90-day emergency contract to help implement the territory’s vector control plan.
The firm is first targeting the homes of pregnant women in order to eradicate mosquito populations near them by eliminating standing water and applying larvicide.
According to the press release, Health has been preparing by:
– Enhancing surveillance and lab testing capacity to detect cases. DOH is working in collaboration with CDC to expand local capacity to conduct initial Zika testing on St. Croix.
– Providing clinical recommendations and reinforcing healthcare infection control and other measures with local healthcare providers across all three islands.
– Educating the community about Zika through public outreach, media and social media. DOH and CDC officials will attend an upcoming public town hall March 30 on St. John to share information with the community about Zika prevention.
– Administering local implementation of the CDC contract for vector control.
Health is distributing educational materials and prevention tools such as mosquito nets, insect repellent and condoms to pregnant women. A total of 104 kits out of 250 sent by the CDC earlier this month have been distributed so far. Kits are available 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