Americans Worry Less About the Spread of Zika

According to a new poll by The Economist and, fewer Americans are concerned about the Zika virus than Ebola, even though the number of individuals infected by the virus soared to 935 in May.

For some, the symptoms of Ebola were scarier and more evident than the most common symptoms of the Zika virus, such as fever, rash, and joint pain. In fact, many infected individuals do not experience any symptoms at all. The most serious implications of Zika are for pregnant women, who run a higher risk of birth defects, miscarriage or stillbirth. Since the public currently perceives the disease as one that only affects pregnant women, it is likely that fewer people are concerned about its negative effects.

With respect to race and ethnicity, a Washington Post poll finds a notable variation in the level of concern among different ethnic groups. While 44 percent of non-whites (46 percent of Hispanics) fear that they or a family member will contract the virus, only 27 percent of whites feel the same. It is possible that this striking gap is because of a significant presence of the virus in Latin America, where it has spread to more than 40 countries, primarily in South America and the Caribbean.

As the number of infected patients rises, the ongoing partisan deadlock on providing funds to combat the virus has become a greater concern for local public health officials, who must prepare for the possibility of Zika cases in their region. Amidst a relatively calm public, the pressure to raise awareness about the Zika virus and mitigate its repercussions falls upon public health authorities.

– Aparna Mazumdar