Keeping Zika and Future Threats from Our Homeland
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was quick to respond to the Zika health emergency in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2016. Through coordinated action with country governments, partner organizations, and communities, USAID has mobilized to:
Teaching people how to identify and eliminate mosquito breeding sites near their homes is an important tool for reducing the risk of Zika infection.
Zika’s sudden appearance in Latin America and the Caribbean caused confusion and alarm. Trained volunteers, like this one in the Dominican Republic, have made thousands of home visits to explain to families how to protect themselves.
Infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can pass the Zika virus to humans. Reducing the number of these mosquitoes by interfering with their reproduction is one Zika-prevention method USAID is studying.
When it comes to teaching communities about Zika, youth are important agents of change. In a public square in Peru, students perform a Zika song and dance designed to engage and educate onlookers.
Microcephaly, a condition characterized by an abnormally small head and incomplete brain development, is a birth defect associated with Zika infection. Babies affected by Zika, like this one in the Dominican Republic, receive specialized care thanks to USAID efforts to strengthen local health care systems.
The Zika virus is transmitted by a particular species of mosquito, called Aedes aegypti. Aedes mosquitoes, which fly only a few hundred feet from their breeding grounds, are notoriously hard to control. Their dried-out eggs can hatch in as little as one drop of water, and they have developed resistance to many of the chemicals humans use to eliminate them. They adapt quickly to new climates and, above all else, they prefer to feed on people. By keeping Aedes mosquito populations under control, USAID is limiting the spread of Zika and reducing the risk of future outbreaks.
Eliminating potential mosquito breeding sites requires communitywide effort. In Peru, volunteers work with local partners and governments to organize clean-up campaigns like this one, ridding neighborhoods of tires and other garbage that can accumulate standing water.
Indoor insecticide spraying is a potential method for reducing the number of mosquitoes inside people’s homes. In the Dominican Republic, USAID is testing the effectiveness of this technique against the mosquito that carries Zika.
Showing at-risk families how to identify, prevent, and eliminate mosquito breeding sites near and around their homes is an important part of reducing Zika risk. Volunteers, like this one in the Dominican Republic, make regular household visits to help communities defend themselves against the virus.
Knowing where mosquito populations are thriving is the first step in knowing where to target eradication efforts. Ovitraps, such as this one in Jamaica, allow technicians to map changes in mosquito numbers over time by tracking where and how many eggs they lay.
Ovitraps are a simple, low-cost method to track mosquito populations and to engage communities in the fight against Zika. In Peru, volunteers teach community residents about the life cycle of the mosquito, as well as how to use their ovitraps.
The number of babies in Latin America and the Caribbean born with birth defects began to rise dramatically in 2016, and experts soon realized that Zika infection was to blame. USAID quickly mobilized to support health care systems in areas where Zika was a threat and to provide help and hope to people whose lives have been changed by the Zika virus.
Local health care providers play a powerful role in Zika prevention by advising pregnant women about the virus, its risks, and protective measures. In Peru, USAID helped develop a curriculum for health professionals on how to counsel patients about Zika.
Local health care centers are critical hubs for reaching pregnant women with Zika information and services. At this clinic in Peru, an outdoor mural warns that “Zika can harm your baby.”
USAID is helping to develop and integrate systems to screen and track infants affected by Zika. In Honduras, a health professional writes down the results of a screening session for a newborn.
USAID is strengthening local health services to prevent Zika and provide care and support to affected families. In the Dominican Republic, a health worker administers specialized therapy to a baby born with Zika-associated birth defects.
USAID is training health care providers to screen for Zika and the birth defects it can cause. In Honduras, a physician at a community center measures the head circumference of an infant diagnosed with Congenital Zika Syndrome.
People are used to living with mosquitoes and do not always understand the dangers of being bitten, especially when it comes to a new disease like Zika. USAID is working to ensure that at-risk populations have correct information about Zika and encouraging them to take action to protect themselves.
Sharing accurate information about a mysterious disease decreases public confusion. Here, a health professional in Peru discusses facts about the Zika virus on a popular radio station as part of a public awareness campaign supported by USAID.
USAID is engaging youth to spread the word about Zika, its risks, and how to prevent it. At a school fair in Honduras, a peer educator gives a presentation on the symptoms of Zika infection.
USAID is leveraging key audiences to increase public awareness of Zika. In Peru, a health professional educates mototaxi drivers about Zika and provides them with informational materials to distribute to their passengers.
USAID works with schools to teach youth about Zika-prevention behaviors, which the students then share with their families. In Peru, a peer educator uses games and activities to instruct his fellow classmates about Zika.
Zika awareness and prevention are especially important for pregnant women, since infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. In Jamaica, a community worker shares information with a pregnant woman about the risks of Zika and how to stay safe.
USAID is bringing at-risk communities together to educate one another about Zika and to battle Zika-carrying mosquitoes through low-cost home- and community-based actions. When communities are empowered with the right tools and information, they are more likely to take Zika response and preparedness into their own hands.
USAID is bringing Zika information and services right to people’s homes. In Honduras, a community health worker uses a household item to engage a baby with Congenital Zika Syndrome in therapeutic stimulation exercises — an affordable technique that families can use to encourage early childhood development.
Low-cost community engagement comes in many forms. Here, a group of mototaxi drivers in Peru participates in educational games designed to inform the local population about the Zika virus.
Through exercises like community mapping, USAID is empowering at-risk populations to take action against Zika in their own backyards. This map of a Honduran community shows areas with the highest Zika-carrying mosquito population.
USAID mobilizes youth to take action against Zika in their communities. In Jamaica, students prepare to participate in a mapping and cleanup activity to eliminate mosquito breeding sites from their school.
Community buy-in and understanding are critical to the success of mosquito-control interventions. In Jamaica, a technician speaks with a family about the use of natural larvicide to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.
As the threat of Zika grew at an alarming rate in early 2016, it was clear that countries did not have the necessary tools to stop its spread or the ability to prevent, detect, and respond to future infectious disease outbreaks. USAID is strengthening the national research capacity in Zika-affected countries and setting the stage for a range of promising innovations that could help slow or stop the spread of the virus in years to come.
USAID is building countries’ capacity to conduct quality mosquito-control programming. In Peru, a scientist uses a microscope to measure the size of insecticide droplets, a critical factor in the effectiveness of control interventions.
Marrying technology and data collection to monitor mosquito populations is part of the ongoing fight against Zika. In a university lab refurbished by USAID, an entomologist looks at a mobile phone showing a photo of an adult mosquito to identify its species.
USAID is supporting countries’ capacity to monitor their mosquito populations and prevent future Zika and other outbreaks. In the Dominican Republic, technicians study mosquito samples under a microscope provided by USAID.
Insecticides are an important tool for fighting mosquito-borne diseases, but mosquitoes can become resistant when the same ones are used too much. In Peru, a technician captures mosquitoes for an insecticide resistance test.
USAID is advancing cutting-edge techniques to analyze mosquito populations and prevent the infectious disease outbreaks they spread. A technician in the Dominican Republic dissects an adult mosquito to determine its ability to transmit disease.
Twitter: #Zika has been linked to birth defects like microcephaly. See how USAID helped reduce travel-related infections while reducing the virus' devastating impacts in Latin America and the Caribbean. #USAIDTransforms @USAIDGH https://youtu.be/_qd1uF_fh2I