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HEALTH COMMISH: Person With Zika Virus in P.R. Has No Known Travel History

juan figueroa serville

Health Commissioner Juan Figueroa-Serville

CHRISTIANSTED – The Virgin Islands Department of Health says that it is closely monitoring the first documented case of the Zika virus reported in neighboring Puerto Rico.

Acting Health Commissioner Juan Figueroa-Serville said the person affected in San Juan is a person with no known travel history outside of that commonwealth.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working closely with the Puerto Rico Department of Health to investigate how the patient may have contracted the virus,” Figueroa-Serville said. “Health officials in Puerto Rico are monitoring for other cases of Zika virus infection. Due to our proximity to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands must take heed and be aware of the symptoms, treatment and most of all prevention of the spread of the Zika Virus.”

The CDC has issued a travel notice advising people traveling to the US Virgin islands and Puerto Rico to take usual precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites to reduce their risk of infection with Zika virus and other mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue and Chikungunya.

These steps include wearing insect repellent, using air conditioning or window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts when possible, and emptying standing water inside and outside the home.

“The safety and welfare of the people of this territory is a priority for the Department of Health,” the commissioner said. “We will work closely with the CDC to identify and treat any cases of the Zika Virus. No cases have been diagnosed in the territory as of yet, however we are taking every precaution to prevent an outbreak here in the Territory.”
Zika virus, originally identified in 1947 from Zika forest of Uganda, is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes are found throughout tropical regions of the world and are the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and Chikungunya viruses.

Mosquitoes become infected with the Zika virus when they feed on a person already infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes can then spread the virus to other people through bites. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika virus infection.

Outbreaks of Zika have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Because the Aedes species mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are found throughout the world, it is likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries.

To date, Zika virus has been reported in several countries and territories in the Americas. Brazil is investigating the possible association between Zika virus infection and cases of microcephaly (smaller than expected head size) in infants.

The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Infection is thought to provide lifelong immunity.

Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. Deaths are rare. Travelers returning from areas with Zika activity should seek medical care if they experience a fever and symptoms of infection. Health care providers in areas with reported cases should be on the alert for possible cases.

“The Virgin Islands Department of Health will conduct training for the local medical professionals, with the assistance of the CDC. We will also be conducting testing to verify and suspected cases of the Zika Virus, as early as today,” Dr. Esther Ellis, Epidemiologist for the Virgin Islands Department of Health, said.


A child in Brazil affected by Zika disease.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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