Who’s Worried About Zika Virus?
By Chris Williams on August 17, 2016.
Apparently most of America is not very worried about Zika. This is according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in early August, just after the first cases of local transmission were identified in Florida. Sixty-five percent of those polled were “not too” or “not at all” worried about themselves or a family member getting the Zika virus. That leaves about 33% of the public that was “somewhat worried’ and only 12% who were “very worried.”
Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You?
As would be expected, there are more worried people (43%) in Florida and Texas, two states expected to be at the forefront of Zika infections in the U.S. In fact, a Texas resident that visited the Zika-affected area in Florida has returned home with the infection, opening up the opportunity for new cases of local transmission in that Texas community. Almost every state in the U.S. has had at least one Zika case linked to international travel. So far, Florida is the only state that has seen Zika transmission by local mosquitoes.
A similar Zika poll in late June found that only 27% of those surveyed were taking steps such as use of repellent and draining standing water in an effort to limit their exposure to Zika. Sixty-seven percent said they were waiting to see if preventive steps would prove necessary.
The poll attributed our relative calm to faith that our government will be able to respond to the threat in a timely manner. That faith may be misplaced since Congress failed to respond to President Obama’s requested funding for Zika prevention before the summer recess. Most Americans weren’t even aware of the funding lapse.
More of us were worried about catching Ebola virus in 2014 or swine flu in 2009. It’s likely that some of the complacency towards this disease can be attributed to the fact that, for most, Zika symptoms are mild or more often not noticed at all. For pregnant women though, Zika can have a catastrophic effect on the development of their fetus.
“What Me Worry?”
Unless you are a woman of child-bearing age or the mate of one, it can be difficult to see why you should stress about avoiding Zika-carrying mosquitoes. And that is why public health officials have their work cut out, trying to convince people to take precautions and avoid areas where Zika exists. People who get Zika, often unknowingly, are then a reservoir for mosquitoes that bite them and spread the disease to others. As local transmission of Zika shows up in more random areas of the U.S., more people will come to realize that there is a reason for concern. Unfortunately the disease will likely spread faster than our sense of community awareness.
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