Public health officials are urging Virgin Islands residents to step up efforts to reduce mosquito breeding as a way to prevent outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue fever, chikungunya and the Zika virus, which is new to the region.
Zika fever, which is not deadly, has spread from Africa to the Americas, with 15 cases confirmed in Brazil in April, Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Georges said in a press release issued Friday.
This month saw one case of Zika in the Dominican Republic, and the disease may travel to the VI as well, according to Dr. Georges.
The medical officer said common symptoms of Zika include mild headaches, skin rash, tiredness, red eyes, back pain and pain in the joints and muscles. He said there is no vaccine or other preventive treatment for the virus, but that patients are advised to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and take anti-inflammatory medications.
Chief Environmental Health Officer Carnel Smith said that even though the territory hasn’t had much rain this season, mosquitoes would have deposited their eggs in dry containers, leaving them to hatch when the containers eventually do fill with water.
“We are asking the community for their assistance in reducing our risk of future outbreaks of dengue, chikungunya and possibly the Zika virus, by remaining vigilant by inspecting your premises for mosquito breeding sites,” Mr. Smith said.
According to the press release, those who need assistance eliminating mosquito breeding sites around their property should contact the Environmental Health Division at 468-5110.
General cleanup to prevent mosquito breeding should include the removal of all water-holding receptacles such as old tyres, discarded buckets, plant pots or pet feeding dishes, plus larger items like abandoned boats and vehicles. Water tanks, wells, buckets and boats should all be covered, according to the release.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Zika fever is named after the Ugandan forest where it was first identified in 1947. The most recent major outbreak of Zika was in the Yap Islands in the Pacific in 2007. There were no deaths, although 180 people were suspected to have contracted the virus in that outbreak.