3 Zika Virus Facts Pharmacists Should Share with Patients

JUNE 19, 2016
Meghan Ross, Senior Associate Editor
A new poll suggests that Americans have some awareness of the Zika virus, but there’s still more work to be done in educating the public, especially regarding transmission.

The HealthDay/Harris Poll asked more than 2000 adults in May 2016 about the Zika virus. Age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and income were weighted in some circumstances to better represent actual proportions in the general public.

The good news is that the majority of adults knew some general information about the virus, mosquitoes, and pregnant women. Around 75% knew that Zika was mainly transmitted via mosquitoes, and nearly 85% of the respondents knew pregnant women were especially vulnerable. 

The poll-takers were also aware of basic ways to protect themselves from contracting Zika from a mosquito bite, such as using insect repellant and wearing long-sleeved clothing.

Around 44% of the poll-takers said they believed that it was at least somewhat likely that the virus would infect individuals in their region in the next few years.

Here are 3 facts pharmacists should share with patients to raise awareness about Zika:

1. Patients can be infected with Zika through sexual transmission.
Only 45% of the poll participants knew this was a possible way to contract Zika.

Jeffrey S. Duchin, MD, health officer and chief of the Communicable Disease Epidemiology & Immunization Section, Public Health for Seattle and King County, and professor in medicine in the Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington, told Pharmacy Times that this particular lack of awareness is the biggest concern.

“It’s important for everyone to know that pregnant women can get Zika from mosquito bites if they travel to a Zika-affected area and that pregnant women can get Zika infection even if they have not traveled if their male sexual partners have been to a Zika-affected area,” Dr. Duchin said.

Jeff Goad, PharmD, MPH, a professor at Chapman University School of Pharmacy, told Pharmacy Times that sexual transmission of Zika will be a concern at the Olympics, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer.

Athletes and fans at the Olympics should consider using barrier contraception, such as condoms, to prevent transmission. In addition, anyone who travels to Brazil or other Zika-affected areas should get checked out by their physician if they experience symptoms like fever or achy joints.