Nav: Home

Floridians took Zika threat more seriously than rest of US -- but still most did nothing

June 13, 2018

Threatened by the mosquito-borne Zika virus in 2016, Florida residents felt more susceptible than others in the United States to getting the virus, were more knowledgeable about it, and were more likely to support taking community action against it.

Floridians were nearly twice as likely as non-Floridians to say they took steps to protect themselves from Zika. Whether or not they felt personally susceptible to getting the virus, Floridians reported acting in greater numbers than their non-Florida counterparts.

Even so, fewer than half of Floridians said they actually did take preventive measures.

A new study comparing the response to the Zika outbreak of adults in Florida with those living elsewhere in the United States suggests that more community-level education may be needed to trigger a broader response to a public health threat such as Zika.

"People need to understand that by protecting themselves from the virus, they're protecting everyone from the virus," said lead author Kenneth M. Winneg, the managing director of survey research at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. "It's not enough to have the people who are most at risk protecting themselves. You need the entire community involved."

The study, published recently in the journal Risk Analysis, was conducted by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study was based on nationally representative surveys by APPC of more than 12,000 U.S. adults, with an oversample of Florida residents, taken August 8 to October 3, 2016. The Annenberg Science Knowledge (ASK) surveys were conducted after the Florida Department of Health identified the first locally transmitted cases of Zika infection in the United States in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

'Unprecedented challenges to public health'

Most people who are infected with Zika do not show symptoms. For those who do, the symptoms are usually mild and gone within a week.

Nonetheless, the researchers say that Zika virus infection poses "unprecedented challenges to public health" as the first mosquito-borne illness that causes birth defects in infants through perinatal transmission and as the first mosquito-borne illness to be sexually transmitted.

Because the Zika virus can be passed to a fetus, pregnant women are especially at risk. Zika can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, according to the CDC. Guillain-Barré syndrome, which has symptoms of muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis, usually for weeks or months, is also strongly associated with Zika, the CDC says.

Floridians more active against Zika

In a number of ways, the study found that Floridians were more informed about Zika, more approving of control measures, and more active in taking steps to protect themselves:
  • Floridians were more than twice as likely as non-Floridians to express at least moderate feelings of susceptibility or being at risk of infection by Zika in the next six months (37 percent vs. 16 percent);

  • Floridians were slightly more likely than non-Floridians to know that Zika is transmitted by mosquitoes (84 percent vs. 82 percent) and by sexual transmission (66 percent vs. 61 percent) and to know that coughing and sneezing is not a means of transmission (67 percent vs. 64 percent);

  • Floridians were more likely than non-Floridians to know that Zika doesn't always produce noticeable symptoms (55 percent vs. 50 percent) and to know that a severe birth defect was a consequence for babies born to infected mothers (76 percent vs. 71 percent);

  • Floridians were more supportive than non-Floridians of aerial spraying (74 percent vs. 67 percent), ground spraying (87 percent vs. 80 percent) and using genetically modified mosquitoes to control Zika (62 percent vs. 58 percent);

  • Floridians were almost twice as likely as non-Floridians (45 percent vs. 26 percent) to say that they had taken steps in the prior three months to protect themselves from Zika;

  • More Floridians who felt at risk of Zika reported taking action to protect themselves than non-Floridians who felt at risk (58 percent vs. 41 percent). And a greater number of Floridians reported taking action than non-Floridians despite not feeling susceptible (38 percent vs. 22 percent).

Wider response needed to Zika virus

Although more than 8 in 10 Floridians knew about Zika and knew that mosquitoes were a likely form of transmission, more than half of Floridians (55 percent) took no preventive action. Even Florida households with a member who was at risk of an adverse pregnancy outcome did not take any more action than comparable non-Florida households.

Over the eight weeks of the Zika study, Floridians did not report significant increases in knowledge, susceptibility or preventive strategies, the researchers found. To overcome such inertia, future efforts to combat Zika may need more outreach to communicate the severe risks to community members such as microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome, researchers said.

In addition, they said that people needed to be educated to understand the wider community implications of their action or inaction.

"Many people may not have expected the symptoms to be personally harmful, and this might have reduced the response to Zika," said co-author Dan Romer, APPC's research director. "But people need to know how important it is to get rid of standing water, put up screens, and use insect repellent - the steps necessary to combat the ability of mosquitoes to transmit the infection. You need a larger community response to prevent the spread of a new transmissible infection like Zika."

"Differences Between Florida and the Rest of the United States in Response to Local Transmission of the Zika Virus: Implications for Future Communication Campaigns," was published in May in Risk Analysis.

In addition to Winneg and Romer, the authors of the study are Jo Ellen Stryker of the CDC and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of APPC.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center was established in 1993 to educate the public and policy makers about the media's role in advancing public understanding of political, health, and science issues at the local, state and federal levels.
-end-


Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania

Related Public Health Articles:

Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Public health experts celebrate 30 years of CDC's prevention research solutions for communities with health disparities
It has been 30 years since CDC created the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program, currently a network of 26 academic institutions across the US dedicated to moving new discoveries into the communities that need them.
Public health experts support federally mandated smoke-free public housing
In response to a new federal rule mandating smoke-free policies in federally funded public housing authorities, three public health experts applaud the efforts of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect nonsmoking residents from the harmful effects of tobacco exposure.
The Lancet Public Health: UK soft drinks industry levy estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children
The UK soft drinks industry levy, due to be introduced in April 2018, is estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children, according to the first study to estimate its health impact, published in The Lancet Public Health.
Social sciences & health innovations: Making health public
The international conference 'Social Sciences & Health Innovations: Making Health Public' is the third event organized as a collaborative endeavor between Maastricht University, the Netherlands, and Tomsk State University, the Russian Federation, with participation from Siberian State Medical University (the Russian Federation).
Columbia Mailman School Awards Public Health Prize to NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T.
Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was awarded the Frank A.
Poor health literacy a public health issue
America's poor record on health literacy is a public health issue, but one that can be fixed -- not by logging onto the internet but by increased interaction with your fellow human beings, a Michigan State University researcher argues.
Despite health law's bow to prevention, US public health funding is dropping: AJPH study
Although the language of the Affordable Care Act emphasizes disease prevention -- for example, mandating insurance coverage of clinical preventive services such as mammograms -- funding for public health programs to prevent disease have actually been declining in recent years.
'Chemsex' needs to become a public health priority
Chemsex -- sex under the influence of illegal drugs -- needs to become a public health priority, argue experts in The BMJ this week.

Related Public Health Reading:

Introduction to Public Health
by Mary-Jane Schneider (Author)

The Health Gap: The Challenge of an Unequal World
by Michael Marmot (Author)

A History of Public Health
by George Rosen (Author), Elizabeth Fee (Introduction), Pascal James Imperato (Introduction)

Public Health Nursing: Population-Centered Health Care in the Community
by Marcia Stanhope RN DSN FAAN (Author), Jeanette Lancaster RN PhD FAAN (Author)

Public Health: What It Is and How It Works
by Bernard J. Turnock (Author)

101 + Careers in Public Health, Second Edition
by Beth Seltzer (Author)

An Introduction to Community & Public Health
by James F. McKenzie (Author), Robert R. Pinger (Author), Denise Seabert (Author)

Introduction To Public Health
by Mary-Jane Schneider (Author)

Global Health 101 (Essential Public Health)
by Richard Skolnik (Author)

Essentials of Epidemiology in Public Health
by Ann Aschengrau (Author), George R. Seage (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Hacking The Law
We have a vision of justice as blind, impartial, and fair — but in reality, the law often fails those who need it most. This hour, TED speakers explore radical ways to change the legal system. Guests include lawyer and social justice advocate Robin Steinberg, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, political activist Brett Hennig, and lawyer and social entrepreneur Vivek Maru.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#496 Anti-Intellectualism: Down With the Scientist!
This week we get to the bottom of anti-intellectualism. We'll be speaking with David Robson, senior journalist at BBC Future, about misology -- the hatred of reason and argument -- and how it may be connected to distrust of intellectuals. Then we'll speak with Bruno Takahashi, associate professor of environmental journalism and communication at Michigan State University, about how the way we consume media affects our scientific knowledge and how we feel about scientists and the press.