Residents Encouraged To Protect Against Virus from Mosquito Bites

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Protect skin from mosquito bites by covering with clothing and using repellent.

There’s a new health risk in the islands and residents should be mindful to protect themselves from mosquitoes, as there are some mosquitoes that transmit viruses that can cause illnesses, V.I. Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett warned last week.

In recent weeks, a new virus called Chikungunya has been confirmed in three residents of Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands. Chikungunya also known as CHIK, is a viral illness similar to the Dengue virus that is transmitted by the Aedes species mosquitoes.

The Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center on St. John has not reported any cases of the  Chikungunya virus.

Tips To Reduce Spread of Virus
Residents are reminded to be vigilant and to follow these tips to reduce the spread of mosquitoes and prevent mosquito bites:

– Keep tires in a dry place. Punch holes in them to make sure water drains out.
– Put plants that are currently in water into soil. Empty flowerpot bases weekly.
– Cover or turn food containers for animals and buckets that hold water upside down.
– Repair or replace damaged screens. Keep windows and doors without screens closed.
– Place a screen or mesh over the overflow pipe of cisterns.
– Cover infant cribs with mosquito netting.
– Use mosquito repellents containing DEET. Follow instructions carefully and use on arms, legs, ankles and nape of neck. Avoid applying to children under 2 years old and to the hands of older children.
– Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors.

Symptoms usually begin 3-7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, according to Dr. Marc Jerome, Territorial Medical Director. The most common symptoms are fever and severe joint pains, often in the hands and feet. Other symptoms may include; headache, muscle pain and joint swelling or rash
Health Monitors Reports of Virus

The V.I. Department of Health is staying abreast of the reports of Chikungunya in nearby Caribbean islands, including the French West Indies previously and, now, the British Virgin Islands, according to Director Francine Lang of the Department’s Public Health Preparedness Program. 

“The Virgin Islands is a tourist destination for some people and home for many people who travel to or from destinations where mosquitoes and mosquito-borne viruses are present and outbreaks occur, so we urge residents to seek medical attention if they recently travelled to such areas and are experiencing symptoms.” Lang said. “Doctors in the territory have been notified and are asked to be vigilant for symptoms that may indicate infection with the Chikungunya virus.”

Residents can obtain help with mosquito control by contacting the Environmental Health Division at (340) 773-1311 Ext. 3109 on St. Croix and (340) 715-5111 in the St. Thomas-St. John-Water Island district. Residents are asked to report standing pools of water near their homes and in their communities that cannot be emptied by residents and that may benefit from larvaciding.

Chikungunya is reportable by law and all suspected cases must be reported to the Health Department using the VI Notifiable Disease Form. Forms should be submitted via confidential fax at (340) 713-1508. Copies of the form, which have been distributed to health care providers, can also be found by visiting www.healthvi.org and downloaded under Forms and Applications via www.healthvi.org. 

For more information about Chikungunya, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov/chikungunya.