When faced with a new disease, the general public has an information deficit. The US Zika Action Plan sets goals that prioritize information and who that information needs to reach. Important goals are:
• Increase awareness about how to properly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
• Educate pregnant women about how to prevent Zika and what to do if they think they have Zika.
• Educate women of reproductive age so they are informed about the risk Zika virus presents to them if they become pregnant.
• Maintain credibility and public trust by regularly providing timely, accurate, accessible, consistent, and comprehensive information about what is known and what is unknown.
• Avoid speculation and conjecture. Dispel rumors, misinformation, and misperceptions as quickly as possible.
• Address concerns and fears of pregnant women and their families.
• Identify, train, and use the most credible spokespersons. For example, use doctors and scientists for health messages, use public officials for policy decisions).
• Use plain and clear language.
• Coordinate communication with partners across all levels of local, state and federal government as well as with healthcare and industry partners.
Coordination of messages is especially important to avoid confusion. People learn best when messaging is consistent and repeated in similar form from multiple sources.
The five most important messages are:
• Zika infection during pregnancy is linked to birth defects. Pregnant women should not travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission.
• Zika is primarily spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.
• The best way to prevent Zika is to prevent mosquito bites.
• Most people infected with Zika don’t even know they have it. People usually don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika.
• See a healthcare provider if you develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or reddish eyes during a trip or within 2 weeks after traveling to a place with Zika, or if you are pregnant and have had sexual contact with someone who has traveled.
Of special concern are those who travel and return from areas where Zika is epidemic. Some people are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms. Spread of Zika from returning travelers to local mosquito populations is the greatest risk to the US public. Travelers need to hear, understand and internalize this message:
Travelers returning from areas with Zika must take precautions upon return (e.g., actively take steps to prevent mosquito bites for at least 3 weeks) to reduce the risk of spread to local mosquito populations.
Anticipate mosquito repellent to fly off the shelves. This could be an interesting summer.