Fewer than one in 10 Americans believe it is likely that they will be infected by the Zika virus, according to a recent Gallup poll. The results of the survey reveal Americans’ low levels of concern about Zika despite widespread reports of how the virus affects fetal development and can be spread by infected individuals traveling from affected areas to areas previously free of the virus.
A total of 5,158 Zika cases have been reported in the U.S. since January 2015––in every state except Alaska––and these cases once garnered significant media attention. The areas in the U.S. that can host mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika are relatively small, and most U.S. cases have involved individuals who had travelled abroad. By comparison, millions of Americans contracted the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, and there were 11 confirmed cases of Ebola in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that of the 5,158 Zika cases in this country, 40% were in the South and 36% in the East, while 15% were in the West and 10% in the Midwest. Despite the large regional differences in the prevalence of infection, perceptions about contracting Zika are similar across the U.S., the survey found. While more than three-fourths of the individuals who contracted Zika reside in the South and East, approximately 90% of the people in each of those regions think it is either “not too likely” or “not at all likely” that they will catch the disease. In the West and Midwest, where Zika has been far less prevalent, the perceptions are similar.
A virus such as Zika can quickly cross state lines, requiring federal intervention to research, identify, prevent, and mitigate the spread of the disease. While largely the responsibility of the CDC, handling these outbreaks will involve a coordinated, multiagency response, Gallup notes. As the Zika virus has spread in the U.S., 64% of Americans are at least somewhat confident that the federal government will be able to manage the public health emergency. Americans’ confidence is somewhat greater than its past levels for Ebola (52%) and swine flu (59%). This level of confidence in Zika prevention may be attributable to the seemingly “less threatening” nature of the virus bolstering Americans’ confidence level, Gallup suggests.
Results for the poll were based on telephone interviews conducted on March 10–11, 2017, with a random sample of 1,025 adults (18 years of age or older) living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
Source: Gallup; March 27, 2017.