The health and safety of Virgin Islanders and visitors to the Territory are of the utmost importance as we continue to closely monitor the news around the spread of Zika virus, which is transmitted primarily by the bite of a mosquito carrying the virus, with recent research suggesting that it can be transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact, blood transfusion, or via saliva.
To date, there have been 21 Zika cases reported in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the World Health Organization has noted that “there should be no restrictions on travel or trade with countries, areas and/or territories with Zika virus transmission.”
The Department of Tourism, together with other government agencies such as the Department of Health, has mobilized resources and tools to heighten awareness, and safeguard and educate residents and visitors alike.
We are working with our partners throughout the Territory to severely limit the environment for mosquito breeding through the use of necessary pest management practices. Mitigation efforts include encouraging the installation of mosquito screening on windows and doors to help reduce contact between mosquitoes and guests, uncovering and unblocking gutters and drains to release stagnant water, cutting and trimming all vegetation on a regular basis, placing insect repellent in guest rooms and making it available for guests to purchase.
The Department of Health is experienced in dealing with mosquito-borne viral diseases in our region and is working with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the Waste Management Authority to enforce protocols to mitigate and reduce the impact of Zika virus across the Territory. These initiatives include educating residents and business owners how to reduce mosquito breeding sites around the home, workplaces as well as schools, hotels, places of worship and any other locations where there are large gatherings.
The Department of Tourism will continue to work closely with governmental agencies to ensure that pertinent messages about Zika are communicated to partners and travelers. This close partnership is imperative, as we continue to work on limiting the spread of mosquito breeding throughout the Territory.
Persons infected with Zika virus may experience a mild febrile viral illness. Eighty percent of people who become infected never have symptoms and those who do have lifetime immunity against the virus.
Residents and visitors are encouraged to use recommended insect repellents on exposed skin and to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors, and while indoors, use air conditioning and keep doors closed.
Travelers seeking information about cancelling or rescheduling their trip should contact their airline carrier, cruise line and/or accommodation provider (i.e. hotels, resorts, villa rentals, etc.) regarding their respective policies.
Here is the latest from the World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2016/1st-emergency-committee-zika/en.
News articles of interest: