Even though most pregnant women in the US Virgin Islands (USVI) know that Zika virus infection can cause brain defects in their babies, relatively few use protective measures or think it’s likely that they will become infected during their pregnancy.
These contradictory views emerged during interviews that USVI Department of Health personnel conducted late last year with 269 residents of the Islands, including 104 pregnant women. As of last May, about 1000 cases of Zika virus disease had been reported in the Islands’ population of approximately 100 000. Among them, 222 pregnant women tested positive for the virus.
Of the pregnant women who were interviewed, 35% knew that mosquitoes transmit Zika and only 12% knew the virus can be sexually transmitted. Only 4% of the pregnant women knew that Zika virus transmission was occurring in the Islands. Some 14% said they thought it was likely they would be infected during their pregnancy. Among all the residents interviewed, fewer than 3% said they had heard about individual protections people could take to prevent infection.
Despite that low percentage, 74% of pregnant women said they’ve used mosquito repellent to protect themselves and their babies since finding out they’re pregnant. But only 27% said they wore clothes to cover their arms and legs, 11% reported spraying their clothes with the insecticide permethrin, 11% said they used a mosquito net at night, 10% avoided going outdoors, 6% used condoms during sex, and 3% avoided going outdoors at night.
Virgin Islands’ Zika Awareness. JAMA. 2017;318(14):1315. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.14435