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Cross-sectional survey of concern and attitudes toward Zika virus in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic

Cross-sectional survey of concern and attitudes toward Zika virus in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic content piece image
The Zika virus is an emerging threat to many equatorial regions of the world and has been associated with flu-like symptoms and microcephaly in newborns. Every year the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) travels to Jarabacoa in the Dominican Republic to provide medical care and health education. Because this virus is essentially the only infectious disease that is both sexually transmitted as well as vector-borne, the survey attempted to ascertain how knowledge of the virus relates to sexual practices and pregnancy prevention, as well as the general knowledge the public has about the virus and what they are currently doing to protect themselves from spread.

LMSA conducted a cross sectional survey in the rural communities of Jarabacoa over two 3-day periods at the beginning of October in 2016 and 2017. 138 individuals completed a 14-point survey evaluating: level of concern towards Zika (1=no concern, 3=neutral, 5=extremely concerned), knowledge level of the disease, use of personal protection against the virus, how people initially heard about the disease and contraception use.

Overall, women were more concerned than men about contracting the virus (p<.001, CI -2.510, -0.826). Of 73 respondents 66% learned about Zika from the TV/news and 24.6% from their medical provider. 81% knew that it is contracted from mosquitos, 5% from blood and 2% from pregnancy, and only 17% of respondents knew that it is contracted through sex. For protection, 63% eliminated standing water, 53% use mosquito nets, 41% prayed to God and only 8% used condoms. Of the three women trying to get pregnant, the average level of concern was 4.67/5, only one was using mosquito nets as protection and none knew Zika could be transmitted through sex or learned about virus protection from their medical provider.

These results indicate several interesting points. In general, the population knows about the Zika virus, that it can be transmitted through mosquitos, and that eliminating standing water is beneficial to prevent spread of the virus. However, there seems to be a severe lack of knowledge about vertical transmission and via body fluids. Future public health efforts should be directed toward reproductive education for women about prevention of sexual transmission as well as how to protect themselves when pregnant.