Zika virus in the US Virgin Islands  Q&A

 

Comment: The Zika outbreak was identified in spring 2016. CDC immediately activated a first response to the territories, promptly activating a vast campaign to minimize the spread of the virus. While more studies were conducted and cases identified, CDC established an headquarter here in St. Thomas. 

Due to several reasons (prompt response, increased information spread among the population, and the end of the hurricane season) it is reasonable to assume that by the time of the conference, it will be safe to travel to the US Virgin Islands and the chance of infection are drastically reduced. Below is some additional information about the  Zika virus and the US Virgin Islands.

Update on March 1st, 2017: the number of reported and tested positive cases has been dropping steadily. Here is the Feb 28, 2017 report which includes also the aggregated data from the past year.

 

Q: "What is Zika?"

A: Zika is a disease transmitted to humans via mosquito bites. The mosquitos are the same that transmit other tropical diseases (e.g. dengue), so they are well known "offenders". It is confirmed that the virus is connected with microcephaly. Also there are indications that it can be sexually transmitted. 

Q: "Is there Zika in the US Virgin Islands?"

A: Yes, in the last 12 months CDC has confirmed 565 cases in the 3 islands, 60% in the St. Thomas island (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/united-states.html)

 

Q: "What has been done to solve the situation?"

A: " CDC used the USVI as their testbed for their first response in this epidemic: they have been on island for 12 months and have established their headquarter for Zika response here. In the last 2 months the number of cases have been DROPPING steadily"

 

Q:"Am I in danger of being infected while at St. Thomas?"

A: "There are numerous actions that you can take to minimize your chances, but you should know that the mosquitos are generally found around stagnant waters, so mostly inland. The area where the conference is (UVI campus) and the south side of the islands (mainly the town of Charlotte Amalie) are not at risk zones. For obvious reasons CDC does not disclose the exact location of the positive cases. 

Q:" What precautions can I take to minimize the chances to be bitten?" 

A: "There are obvious precautions to take to minimize the chance to be bitten by the mosquitos. http://precautions.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/precautions-virus-precautions-islands

REMEMBER: not all mosquitoes carry Zika.

Q:"Is there a vaccine?"

A: As of November 2016 there is no vaccine. With the outbreak in florida and the increase in effort in searching for a vaccine, it is reasonable to think that Zika may well be under control by spring 2017.