The Zika Virus: Americans’ Awareness and Opinions of the U.S. Response

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted a national survey of 1,004 adults using AmeriSpeak to explore Americans’ knowledge about the Zika virus.

A new poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds a significant number of Americans who say they have heard only a little or nothing at all about the Zika virus. Those who are aware of the virus express low levels of concern.

In February 2016, the World Health Organization issued a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) heightened its efforts in response to Zika and the cases of microcephaly and other neurological disorders that are associated with the virus. [1]

As of March 30, the CDC reports 312 cases of the virus in the United States, all of which are associated with travel to affected areas. While there have not been any cases of local transmission of Zika via infected mosquitos within the United States, U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa have together reported 349 locally acquired cases. [2]

The poll finds that three-quarters of Americans who have heard at least a little about Zika are aware that the virus is linked to birth defects in babies born to infected mothers. Yet most Americans are unclear about options to test for the virus and the current availability or unavailability of effective medicines to treat and vaccines to prevent Zika.

In March, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a preliminary announcement that the release of genetically engineered male mosquitos, which mate with females but don’t produce viable offspring, in a field trial in Florida would not cause harm to the environment. [3]

The poll suggests there is public support for this and other policy approaches to preventing the spread of Zika in the United States through mosquito control.

The nationwide poll of 1,004 adults used AmeriSpeak, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Interviews were conducted between March 17 and 21, 2016, online and using landlines and cell phones.

Three Things You Should Know
From The AP-NORC Center’s Poll on the Zika virus
Among all American Adults:

  1. Four in 10 Americans have heard only a little or nothing at all about the Zika virus.
  2. Ninety percent of those who have heard of Zika know that it can be spread through the bite of a mosquito carrying the virus; however, only 57 percent are aware that Zika can be spread through sexual intercourse with an infected person.
  3. Despite the ongoing Zika outbreak in Brazil, only a quarter of Americans believe that American athletes should withdraw from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.