Working with community health workers to reinforce the mosquito bite prevention message during the threat of Zika

Posted on August 10, 2016 by Brendaly Rodríguez

Earlier this year, when the word “Zika” was just becoming known in the U.S., promotores de salud, also known as community health workers (CHWs), in Miami, Florida were already taking action and learning about the prevention and control of mosquito-borne diseases. In February, the Miami Dade Florida Health Department convened a community meeting that resulted in a call for more multilingual community education and awareness of Zika. The Florida Community Health Worker Coalition partnered with the Health Council of South Florida , the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and the Miami-Dade Health Action Network to facilitate a series of Zika education workshops for CHWs .

This series of free, accredited, and multi-lingual capacity-building workshops specifically tailored for CHWs/promotores took place in March and April of this year. The workshops tackled the public health challenges that arise before and during the emergence or re-emergence of vector-borne diseases, as well as strategies for their control. The infographic below highlights the lessons learned about Zika virus, dengue fever and chikungunya.

This capacity building effort identified the need to educate and update communities frequently about how to prevent Zika, especially as our knowledge about the transmission and impact of the disease continues to change. CHWs are uniquely situated to spur community members to ask themselves, “What can I do to protect myself, my family, and my community from Zika?” and then serve as the resource to engender appropriate action in the community, with health care professionals and local government officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for the best way to prevent diseases spread by mosquitoes is to avoid mosquito bites by controlling mosquitoes outside and inside the home, using repellent registered by the Environmental Protection Agency with DEET, picaridin, IR535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol.

Zika can also be transmitted through sex; infections that occur during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. As a result, the CDC recommends all pregnant women with sexual partners (male or female) who live in or traveled to an area with Zika, use condoms or a barrier method during sex or abstain from sex for the remainder of their pregnancy. Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. That is why is so important to avoid mosquito bites, control mosquitoes, and protect pregnant women from getting Zika. We all can do our part to #StopZika.