USVI A Model for Zika Response

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Press Release from Virgin Islands Department of Health

From the 1st Zika Case the DOH has implemented Proactive, Consistent and Safe Method
Another DOH Event: Zika Action Day August 27th on St. Thomas at Walgreens Pharmacy

(August 10, 2016 – U.S. Virgin Islands) For the past 25 weeks the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health (DOH) has provided updates (doh.vi.gov) regarding the status of the Zika virus in the territory and the DOH’s response to reduce the affects of the outbreak. Some weeks the number of Zika cases stayed the same, and other weeks the numbers showed an increase.  In all, the DOH is humbly proud to report: those who were confirmed lab positive have had mild reactions; there have been no hospitalizations and therefore no fatalities as a result of the virus; one pregnant woman who was confirmed lab positive gave birth to a healthy baby; and there have been no cases of Guillain-Barre` Syndrome (GBS) in the USVI. In addition to all of DOH’s free services and resources, we have increased and expanded our free vector control services to schools, hospitals, daycares and public open areas, in an effort to reduce the vector (Aedes aegypti).

Senators, government officials, residents, local and international news outlets have positively commented and reported on the comprehensive and detailed response the USVI Department of Health has provided the territory. The DOH continues to be proactive in protecting and educating not only pregnant women but also the entire community and our visitors (http://usvihta.com/doh-and-usvi-hotel-and-tourism-association-work-to-protect-staff-and-tourists-from-zika-virus/). As part of the continuing effort to educate the public, the DOH, in collaboration with CDC and Walgreens Pharmacy, will be hosting a Zika Action Day on St. Croix on Friday, August 26th at the Christiansted Fort Park and for St. Thomas on Saturday, August 27th, at the Walgreens Pharmacy location.

Commissioner of the Department of Health, Michelle S. Davis, PhD, stated, “It has been 33 weeks since the first Zika case was confirmed in the USVI. Although concerning to many, the rise in Zika cases is and has been expected. Analysis from the previous Chikungunya outbreak in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico shows that the outbreak peaked between the 34th and 37th weeks; those weeks were reportedly the highest during the Chikungunya outbreak. We anticipate seeing a decline in cases in the coming months.  The US Virgin Islands has been fortunate that our numbers have remained modest and that the Territory has a well-coordinated and organized infrastructure in place to respond to Zika.  The DOH has learned from past outbreaks and has created the necessary infrastructure to provide the needed community outreach and education, disease surveillance, diagnostic control and an integrated vector control program to help protect pregnant women, the public and visitors”

According to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)  http://ais.paho.org/phip/viz/ed_zika_cases.asp), the following chart provides a cumulative report of the Zika cases in some of the countries and territories of the U.S., as of August 5, 2016.

 

Recorded on PAHO website as of August 5, 2016

Country Suspected Confirmed
Argentina 1,726 23
Barbados 763 15
Brazil 165,932 66,180
Colombia 91,640 8,682
Costa Rica 861 295
Dominica 811 67
Dominican Republic 4,878 252
Guadeloupe 25,450 379
Haiti 2,125 5
Jamaica 3,805 58
Martinique 33,900 12
Puerto Rico Not Listed 7,296
Saint Lucia 702 26
Trinidad & Tobago Not Listed 149
U.S. Virgin Islands* 525 115

It is important to note the countries that report a high number (http://www.newsamericasnow.com/five-caribbean-countries-with-the-most-zika-cases/) of suspected cases but a low number of confirmed cases may lack the necessary laboratory testing capacity. However, the U.S. Virgin Islands is uniquely positioned to have access to Federal funding, through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to assist in the USVI Zika response.

The support from the CDC and the DOH’s experience and continuous preparation for communicable diseases establishes the USVI as one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean. As a result of our background in communicable outbreaks, the USVI DOH has created an internal infrastructure that allows for a rapid response to diseases contracted by mosquitoes. This experience and preparation provides confidence and assurance to not only our residents but also our visitors. The DOH is actively in the community, providing free services and resources-to include FREE Zika testing (at 12 locations in the territory), FREE Larvicide and Vector Control treatment and FREE Zika Prevention kits to pregnant women, which includes a bed net, permethrin, insect repellents, educational material, treatment tabs to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in standing water. Over 900 Zika Prevention Kits have been distributed to pregnant women throughout the territory and approximately 5000 EPA approved repellents have been given out to the public as a whole. Additionally, 243 presentations have been conducted and since the activation of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), February 2016, CDC has sent 53 additional staff to assist with the Zika response in the USVI.

The Department of Health is also offering free mosquito inspection and treatment for all Hospitals, Clinics, Schools, Daycare Centers, Churches, and for public places that may pose a mosquito problem.  The DOH is encouraging the public to assist in these efforts by contacting the Emergency Operations Center and reporting any facilities or places that may be experiencing issues with mosquitoes.  This could include a school, an abandoned lot, illegal rubbish dump, etc.

Anyone exhibiting symptoms (fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, headaches, muscle pain) is encouraged to take advantage of the FREE Zika testing offered through DOH-supported clinics throughout the territory.

The Department of Health continues to offer the following FREE services to pregnant women:

  • Free Zika testing at 12 locations throughout the islands;
  • Free Inspections and Treatment for mosquitoes found at/around the house
  • Free Zika Prevention Kit (ZPK) containing educational materials, insect repellent, permethrin spray repellent, condoms to avoid sexual transmission of Zika, treatment tabs for preventing mosquitoes from breeding in standing water, and a bed net.

Protect yourself and your family from Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses, by following 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

For local information about the Zika virus or to receive any of the Department of Health’s free services, call the DOH’s Emergency Operations Center at (340) 712-6205 or visit our new website doh.vi.gov.

You can also find valuable information and post comments on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/virginislandsDOH. For more general information about the Zika virus, call toll free:

1-800-CDC-INFO or visit CDC.org/zika.

*Recorded as of August 10, 2016-(90 on St. Thomas, 23 on St. Croix, 2 on St. John).