ST THOMAS, USVI — The US Virgin Islands (USVI) Department of Health (DOH) has reported nine new cases of zika in the territory. According to the weekly surveillance report, the total number of confirmed positive cases in the territory is now 65 — 19 cases on St Croix, 45 cases on St Thomas, and one on St John.
Out of 830 tests completed for pregnant women, ten have laboratory evidence of zika; seven are presumptive positive, and three are confirmed. There is no change to the number of dengue cases.
Commissioner of the Department of Health, Michelle Davis, PhD, stated, “In response to the rise in zika cases in the territory and the recent discovery that zika can be transmitted sexually from women to men, the DOH is hosting a series of public forums and clinician seminars on St Croix and St Thomas, to ensure that the public and physicians have the latest information to protect themselves, their family and their patients.”
These public forums are a part of a series of community outreach events conducted by the DOH to provide the public, with an emphasis on pregnant women and their partners, an opportunity to learn more about the zika virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if infected with zika, a pregnant woman can pass the virus onto her fetus during pregnancy or during delivery. Zika has the potential to cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly – a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected because the brain has not fully developed during pregnancy or has stopped growing after birth. In addition to microcephaly, fetuses and infants infected with the zika virus before birth can also have other illnesses such as eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth.
While zika is primarily spread by infected Aedes species mosquitoes, the virus can also be spread sexually. To reduce the possibility of zika infection, the use of condoms is encouraged.
The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Many people with zika may not know they have the virus as symptoms are usually mild and can last for several days to a week.