p>On Wednesday, the V.I. Department of Health confirmed two more cases of Zika in the territory, one on St. Croix and the other on St. Thomas, bringing the total to 26 cases.
Since the start of the outbreak in January, 690 pregnant women in the territory have been tested for the virus. Three have tested positive for Zika virus, one of which has already given birth to a healthy baby. One of the women is currently pregnant, but her condition and that of the other woman is unknown due to confidentiality issues.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has confirmed that Zika can cause microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormal smallness of the head and stunted brain development. If unborn babies contract Zika while in the womb, they could suffer birth defects.
Last Thursday, the World Health Organization officially recommended that women in areas with local Zika transmission delay pregnancy. Health has not released a statement that addresses this recommendation yet. (See link to new WHO guidelines in Related Links section below)
“We will continue to stress the importance of protecting ourselves, our loved ones and our islands from the possible devastating health effects of this virus and encourage our residents, especially pregnant women in the territory, to take advantage of the free services offered by the Department of Health,” Health Commissioner Michelle Davis stated.
To date, 16 of the 26 confirmed Zika cases have occurred on St. Croix. St. Thomas has nine confirmed cases and St. John has one case.
There have been 302 reported (suspected but not confirmed) Zika cases in the territory since the start of the outbreak in January. A total of 224 cases, which is 20 more than last week, have come back negative for the virus and 49 are currently pending results.
Last week Dr. Esther Ellis, Health’s territorial epidemiologist, said the turnaround time for getting results to the territory has improved, since now it takes approximately two weeks instead of a month.
On average the territory is sending about 30 to 40 blood samples to the CDC in Atlanta for Zika testing each week.
According to this week’s surveillance report, there have been 15 previous cases of dengue this year, eight on St. Croix, six on St. Thomas and one on St. John. This new case in St. John is the first dengue case reported in two months.
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.
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. At this time Health is not testing sexual partners of people who test positive for Zika.
The Zika virus stays in semen longer than blood and a man can pass it to his female or male sex partners. What’s not known is whether or not a woman can pass the virus through her vaginal fluids and if saliva could be a conduit as well.
Health, in partnership with the CDC, has given more than 600 community presentations on Zika in the territory. Giving presentations at schools and to various community organizations has been part of Health’s strategy to address the virus and slow its spread.
Health is continuing to offer free Zika testing for pregnant women regardless of if they are showing symptoms or not. The CDC has contracted a private company to inspect the homes of pregnant women for potential mosquito breeding risks and to offer larvicide treatment if necessary.
Any households with a pregnant woman that would like this free service or want additional information about it can call Health’s Emergency Operations Center at 340-712-6205.
Health is distributing education materials in English and Spanish, as well as prevention tools like mosquito nets, insect repellent and condoms 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 infection testing. 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.