The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed the U.S. Virgin Island’s first case of Zika-related microcephaly, the V.I. Department of Health reported Friday.
“We are saddened to report this case; however, we are not surprised due to the high rate of local transmission in the territory,” Commissioner of Health, Michelle S. Davis said in a Friday news release. “The DOH stands ready to provide services to women, infants and families affected by the Zika virus. Although one case is too many, we must continue to remain vigilant in preventing infection through mosquito bites and unprotected sex; especially to pregnant women.”
Microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is much smaller than expected, is a sign of incomplete brain development, the DOH explained.
“During pregnancy, a baby’s head grows because the baby’s brain grows. Microcephaly can occur because a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy or has stopped growing after birth, which results in a smaller head size,” the DOH said.
Since the DOH began tracking in January 2016, the department has followed 2,119 reported cases, of which 1,026 tested positive for the mosquito-born virus. Of those, 1,860 were pregnant women, and 232 tested positive.
The DOH news release did not specify which island the microcephaly case was on.
The department reminded Virgin Islanders that avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to prevent getting Zika. This can be accomplished by following the mantra of “Dress, Drain, Defend.”
– Dress: Wearing long sleeved shirts, long pants;
– Drain: Eliminating standing water in and outside of the home; and
– Defend: Using repellents, bed nets, condoms, and screens on windows and doors.
“You can call our Zika Hotline for any questions regarding Zika prevention or learn more about our free services for pregnant women. The number is 340-712-6205,” the news release said.
Though typically a mild infection in adults, Zika virus infection can cause a pattern of severe birth defects known as Congenital Zika Syndrome when passed from pregnant women to their unborn children. These birth defects include microcephaly, developmental disabilities, and vision problems. Clinical representatives from the Department of Health have met with physicians, pathologists, midwives, hospital administrators, maternal-child health nurses, and medical flight crews to discuss the current state of the Zika virus outbreak in USVI and the potential risk of Zika virus infection to pregnant women and their infants.
The DOH has strongly urged pregnant women to take steps to prevent mosquito bites and protect themselves from sexual transmission of Zika throughout their entire pregnancy. Anyone who is pregnant and showing symptoms of Zika, such as a fever, rash, red eyes, joint/muscle pain or headache, should immediately talk to her doctor or healthcare provider, the department said.
There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika. Zika is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. A pregnant woman can pass Zika to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Men and women with Zika can pass it to their partners through sexual contact.
The department’s Emergency Operations Center can answer questions about Zika or make available free services. Those interested can 340-712-6205 or visit online at http://doh.vi.gov.