Perceptions of Zika Virus Among USF Students
This study aims to improve programs involved in prevention of Zika transmission and risks among student populations in Florida. The specific aims were to evaluate student knowlede and perception concerning the tranmission of Zika and the risks associated, as well as identify any differences in knowledge and perceptions amongst international students, graduate students, and students that have traveled internationally during the past year.
University of South Florida students (n=403) were invited to participate in an anonymous survey that explored student perceptions of the transmission of Zika and the risks associated. Convenience sampling was conducted at locations on campus with large amounts of student traffic. Privacy and confidentiality of the subjects was maintained since no identifying information was collected. After the surveys were applied and collected, data analysis was conducted in SPSS. Statistical techniques that were applied to the data included Chi-square tests to assess differences among student populations (international/domestic, graduate/undergraduate, have/have not traveled internationally during the past year) in reference to items such as if Zika is an important issue in the community. The data was also stratified by variables such as gender and age to see if this affected one’s perception of the Zika virus.
The majority of the students (67.34%) reported that they would not consider getting tested for Zika if they had fever; however, over 65% of students reported that they would consider receiving a Zika vaccine if it was available. Over 75% of students perceived their risk of contracting Zika in the next six months as low or nonexistent. Over 80% of students agreed or strongly agreed that pregnant women should be tested for Zika. Chi-square analyses were performed to look at differences of Zika knowledge among different demographic groups. International students were more likely to believe that Zika is an important issue in their community (X2[2, N = 396] 7.48, p = 0.024) and perceived a higher risk of contracting Zika (X2[3, N = 393] 11.65, p = 0.003). Male students were more likely to correctly identify that not everyone who contracts Zika shows symptoms (X2[2, N = 399] 11.99, p = 0.002).
Consistent trends found were that most students perceive that their risk of getting Zika is low or nonexistent, despite local transmission occurring in Florida. Despite low perceived personal risk of contracting Zika, the majority of students would consider getting a Zika vaccine if it was available; they also believed that all pregnant women should be tested for Zika. International students believed more than domestic students that Zika is an important issue in their community; international students also perceived a higher risk of contracting Zika than domestic students. Additionally, male students were more likely than female students to correctly identify that not all individuals with Zika show symptoms. This study found that, generally speaking, USF students were largely uninformed about Zika transmission and the associated risks. These findings can be used to improve health programs at Florida universities in hopes of reducing the health impacts of Zika virus.