The Ministry of Health and Social Development maintains that the Territory is Zika free, despite US reports earlier this week that someone who travelled from the BVI tested positive for the virus.
On Monday US media reported the Zika claim. The reports stemmed from an announcement that was made by the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS). In a press release distributed on 25 July the DCHHS stated that someone who was in the BVI is one of the two most recent Dallas County residents who tested positive for the Zika virus.
The Dallas County Health and Human Services announced that a 23-year-old during a trip to the British Virgin Islands became infected with the Zika virus. The virus was confirmed through testing in the DCHHS lab and was submitted for review to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“For medical confidentiality and personal privacy reasons, DCHHS does not provide additional identifying information,” the release said.
However, on Tuesday the BVI Ministry of Health and Social Development issued a press release assuring that there are no confirmed cases of Zika in the Territory. The announcement was made by Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ronald Georges. He explained that since the concerns surrounding Zika started, there have been 14 persons who exhibited Zika like symptoms, However, it was explained that all of the persons tested negative.
“Recently we tested an individual who was in close proximity with two known positive cases from another territory and that individual tested negative,” Dr. Georges disclosed.
Additionally, he mentioned: “We are only able to test persons who were in contact with known cases, who meet the case definition for Zika and those who present a rash with no associated fever.”
“Zika is a disease that doesn’t present symptoms in some individuals, which often goes unnoticed and the body’s immune system often fights the infection. It is imperative that the residents of the BVI take the proper precautions to reduce mosquito breeding in and around their properties to lower their vulnerability to this and other vector borne illnesses,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry is continuing to promote the “Fight the Bite, Destroy Mosquito Breeding Sites” campaign. The campaign is urging residents to conduct weekly surveillance activities around their premises.
The USVI Zika Situation
The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Department of Health (DOH) reports nine (9) new cases of Zika in the USVI. According to the weekly surveillance report, the total number of confirmed positive cases in the territory is now Sixty-five (65) — 19 cases on St. Croix, 45 cases on St. Thomas, and one (1) on St. John. Out of 830 tests completed for pregnant women, ten (10) have laboratory evidence of Zika; seven (7) are presumptive positive,* and three (3) are confirmed. There is no change to the number of Dengue cases.
Commissioner of the Department of Health, Michelle S. 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 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.”
According to 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.
According to DOH sources, 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 are 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.
To protect yourself and your family from Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses, follow the 3 Ds of prevention:
- Dress – wear protective clothing – long sleeves, long pants and light colors
- Drain – get rid of water containers in and around your home that can serve as breeding places for mosquitoes
- Defend – use repellent on exposed skin and treat clothes with one of several EPA-approved repellents