In a study released recently in the Pan-American Journal of Public Health, researchers at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington found that U.S. adults, especially young men, lack awareness of how Zika virus is transmitted, and how at risk they are for the virus. More than 90 percent of those surveyed reported either no risk or low risk of Zika in the next six months. This comes even after more than 5,000 cases of Zika have been reported in the continental U.S.
The study analyzed Zika related items from the 2016 wave of the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB), a nationally representative probability sample of U.S. adults. The study primarily focused on participants’ knowledge of Zika virus transmission and their perceived risk of infection. They found that most men and women — 91 percent and 94 percent, respectively — identified the mosquito bite transmission route. Far fewer identified sexual transmission and mother-to-child transmission. When asked about their perceived risk of infection, this research shows that those living in southern states identify their risk as higher than those in other parts of the country.
Based on the results of her research, Dr. Guerra-Reyes recommends the development of programs and messages focused on Zika prevention targeted specifically at young males. She said that messages should emphasize the importance of correct and consistent condom use, even in the absence of Zika symptoms.