Research: Commentary

Zika Messaging

September 27, 2016 | Letter

By Jeff Blum

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Resources dedicated to fight the spread of the Zika are running low. Congress should put partisan politics aside and provide funding to combat the virus.

Because Zika primarily threatens pregnant women, sound family planning policies must be a central part of combating this virus.

Providing access to contraception is a human right. Many women around the world – including millions in Latin American countries where Zika has hit hardest – are being asked to delay pregnancy but have little to no means to acquire birth control.

Whether in the health care industry, or in public-sector jobs maintaining sanitation, the labor movement is at the frontlines in fighting Zika. Those working people who are helping to combat the virus can and should be protected from it.

When it comes to vector borne diseases like Zika, climate change is a threat multiplier. A warming climate means that mosquitos that spread the disease are more widely distributed than they ever were before, creating new uncertainties about where Zika can be a threat.


Hashtags: #Zika #WHO #Salud #Congress

Sample tweets (copy and paste):

  • #Zika threatens everyone, fight Zika everywhere - global security means American security
  • Tell Congress: Promote human rights and progressive values by committing public funds to combatting the #Zika virus
  • Fact: In most countries where #Zika is the biggest threat, women don’t have access to abortion
  • The CDC says preventing pregnancy is the best way to combat #Zika’s worst effects
  • Poor women in countries hardest hit by #Zika are more likely to seek unsafe abortions #Salud
  • #Zika primarily effects poor communities - economic security means global security #Salud
  • Clean communities matter: #Zika thrives in areas of “environmental degradation”
  • The health of the global environment is fundamental to everyone. Fight #ClimateChange to stop #Zika



Zika is transmitted by mosquito bites, from a pregnant woman to her fetus, sexually and, more rarely, via blood transfusion. [Source]

The Zika virus poses the biggest threat to fetuses, facing “risk of severe birth defects, including microcephaly, which is characterized by a shrunken head and incomplete brain development.” [Source]

According to the CDC, Guillain-Barré Syndrome – which affects the nervous system – is strongly associated with Zika; however, only a small proportion of people with recent Zika virus infection get GBS. [Source]

The primary factors driving the Zika crisis are poverty, conflict, migration and environmental degradation. [Source]

While Zika has hit Central and South America the hardest, it is also a cause for concern in the United States – particularly in “highly suitable” regions including Florida, and the coastal regions of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. [Source]


Because Zika poses the greatest risk to pregnant women and babies, family planning policies must be a central part of combating it. [Source]

According to the CDC, the primary strategy to reduce Zika-related pregnancy complications is to prevent pregnancy in women who want to delay or avoid pregnancy. [Source]

The Zika crisis has called attention to the millions of women in the U.S. and around the world who don’t have the ability to decide if and when they have children.

Comprehensive reproductive health care must be made available to all at-risk women – including those both in the United States and abroad – who would like to avoid or delay their pregnancy while the Zika crisis persists.

Millions of women in Latin American counties hit hardest by Zika – particularly those in poorer regions – don’t have access to contraception. [Source]

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Latin American countries to increase contraception access. [Source]

A recent poll found that a majority of Americans feel it’s important to provide funding for greater access to reproductive health choices and services in order to limit the effects of Zika. [Source]

The Zika virus outbreak has brought awareness to some of the harshest abortion laws throughout the world, particularly in Central and South America. [Source] [Source]

  • No countries in Central and South America have amended their abortion laws to respond to Zika, while at the same time, back-alley abortions are increasing. [Source]
  • Online requests for abortion medications have gone up 108% in Latin American countries where officials have issued Zika warnings on pregnancy. [Source]
  • Last year in Brazil, according to the New York Times, “the number of women who sought medical attention for botched abortions outpaced the number of women who received legal abortions by nearly 100 to one.” [Source]
  • Lawmakers in Brazil are considering a bill to increase penalties for women who abort a fetus with microcephaly. [Source]
  • Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest unsafe abortion rates in the world. [Source]
  • A majority of Americans would support late-term abortions in the case of microcephaly. [Source]

The lifetime cost to care for a baby born with Zika-caused microcephaly could range anywhere from $1 million to $10 million. [Source]


The mosquito that carries the Zika virus – the Aedes aegypti – thrives in areas where human activity has caused “environmental degradation.” [Source]

  • The Aedes mosquito breeds in small places were water collects and cannot drain, such as old tires and uncollected garbage. [Source]

Temperature rises globally increase the number of people who can be exposed to diseases borne in warmer climates. [Source]

  • Mosquitos feed more frequently in higher temperatures; warm air incubates the Zika virus in mosquitos faster, and mosquitos’ territory expands as the climate warms. [Source]

While Zika’s spread to the United States is largely due to international travel, the warming climate has meant that mosquitos are more widely distributed than they ever were before. [Source]


“Globally, the labor movement is on the front line of the response to Zika and other public health emergencies; from nurses and health care professionals to Flight Attendants and other aviation and transportation workers, as well as public-sector workers charged with maintaining clean water and sanitation.” – AFL-CIO [Source]

The CDC has issued a number of recommendations to protect against the spread of Zika for employers and workers – including those working outdoors, health and lab workers, mosquito control workers, and business travelers. [Source]

  • Employers should provide outdoor workers with insect repellents, and provide or encourage protective, loose-fitting clothing that covers exposed skin. [Source]
  • Health care workers should follow all standard operating procedures for infection control and biosafety practice. [Source]

Zika primarily effects the poor, as it is most prevalent in areas with neglected neighborhoods, substandard housing without air conditioning, and where people have limited access to health care and contraceptive services. [Source]

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