Publisher’s Note: Fighting misinformation about the Zika virus

WHEN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE healthcare officials and providers are pressed into service to battle a healthcare emergency, one of the places they can almost always find themselves fighting is the front of misinformation. Such is the case with the current Florida and U.S. battle against the Zika virus.

Kirkland_Nelson_new2016

this year, a Harvard poll found that many Americans were woefully misinformed about the risks associated with the virus. Given the fact that the education process about the mosquito-borne Zika virus has been under way for several months now, the knowledge level about the virus likely is higher today, but at the time of the Harvard poll, back in March, researchers found that:

• About one out of every four people surveyed didn’t know about the link between the Zika virus and the neurological birth defect called microcephaly (a smaller-than-normal head size).

• One in five people incorrectly believed that a vaccine is available to ward off Zika.

• Approximately 40 percent of the survey participants didn’t know that the virus can be transmitted through sexual contact.

• About 25 percent of the respondents thought that people infected with the virus “very likely” would show symptoms.

Misinformation about a healthcare threat usually produces negative consequences. When it involves a virus such as Zika, the Harvard researchers said, a poor understanding can have some people neglectful in protecting themselves and others unnecessarily engaged in fear.

Here in Florida, we can be thankful that public healthcare officials at the state and local level have been on top of the Zika virus threat from the start. The Florida Department of Health offers a Zika information hotline — available around the clock — at 855-622-6735. It also has a wealth of information, including a daily Zika news update, online at www.floridahealth.gov.

Through Oct. 21, the Florida Department of Health had conducted Zika virus testing for more than 9,567 people statewide. At the direction of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, all county health departments offer free Zika risk assessment and testing to pregnant women. The Florida Department of Health in Polk County has its own website at polk.floridahealth.gov and can be reached by phone at 863-519-7900.

CREDIT

column by NELSON KIRKLAND

Nelson Kirkland is publisher of Central Florida Doctor magazine. He may be reached by e-mail at nelson@centralfloridamediagroup.com.