There have been more than half a million cases of the Zika virus so far across 47 countries.
Focusing on the five most affected countries, which are in Latin America, we're working to empower communities to combat the virus by learning new behaviors that help prevent and treat the disease.
Our photo series shows how!
On February 1 of this year, the World Health Organization declared the current Zika outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. As of September 22, there had been more than 500,000 cases in 47 countries, with more than 2,000 reported cases of congenital syndrome (like birth defects) associated with this viral disease.
In Honduras, Aida noticed possible symptoms of the virus in her 8-month-old daughter Crisia (above), and brought her to the health center to be tested.
In Honduras, a mother receives instructions on the proper installation and use of a bed net to prevent mosquito bites. Zika virus disease is a mosquito-borne flavivirus transmitted primarily by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. There is now scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome; links to other neurological complications are presently being investigated.
The latest incidence rate of the epidemic is 62 per 100,000 people. As this previously obscure disease has progressed, the health and scientific community has been collecting and documenting pertinent new information on the particular behavior of the virus.
One of the main challenges in the process of adopting behaviors to prevent the transmission of Zika is the translation of this new information into risk communication strategies at the regional and country level.
In Colombia, a World Vision staff member meets with community leaders to discuss Zika prevention activities and expanding efforts to other districts.
World Vision is focusing our activities in the five most affected countries. Among operational activities, the response included the collection and dissemination of epidemiological data to increase efficiency in the prevention and control of the outbreak. According to respondents, the causes of transmission were mostly limited to mosquito bites and contaminated water; there was negligible knowledge among participants on documented vertical and sexual transmission, nor the highly probable blood transfusion route. Most participants believed that Zika disease is always accompanied by symptoms. Fever, headache, and joint pain were the three most recognized signs and symptoms by all countries. Conjunctivitis is the least recognized. Most respondents agreed that Zika virus represents high or moderate risk in their communities, and that it is a disease than can be prevented.
With the exception of Guatemala, TV was by far the main source of health-related information in five countries. Radio was the most important in Guatemala. One caveat we need to note is the fact that interpersonal communication (family and friends) constitutes an important source of information, probably as important as TV. Likewise, we found that health care service delivery points are not generally considered an important source of health information, especially for adolescents and male adults.
Youth in El Salvador communicate Zika-related messages through dramas, using props like this large mosquito, to teach their communities about prevention and treatment of the virus.
Among other things, the data indicates that we will never control vector-borne outbreaks if we only focus on vector control; we need to focus on population-based preventive behaviors, and for this reason we need to make our communities active participants and not only recipients.
In Honduras, 10-year-olds Vivian and David are doing their part by showing their classmates how to make mosquito traps using simple objects to prevent the spread of the virus.
Alfonso Rosales is World Vision's Zika Response Leader.
Your gift today will help families and communities avoid contracting the Zika virus and support the protection of at-risk populations, especially pregnant women. Donate to our Zika Virus Response Fund!