Who are the 20% of Women Who Don’t Know About Zika?
By Danielle Schroth

Lack of awareness on Zika virus holds consistent since February, according to three InCrowd tracking surveys

As the US watches the toll that the Zika virus is taking here and around the world, there’s a community of women we’re not reaching.  And it’s time to sound the alarm.

InCrowd has just finished wave three of the Zika virus tracking survey and we were shocked to find – again – that 20% of pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant surveyed still haven’t heard about the Zika virus.

The Zika virus tracking survey began back in February 2016 as a public service to monitor perceptions over time, using InCrowd’s real-time microsurvey technology and automated MicroTracker product.  We ran a second wave in April, and a third one in June. To get a broad understanding of perceptions, we questioned both US OB/GYNs and women who would be most impacted by the virus—already pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant.

In all three waves, we’ve observed an alarming and consistent percentage of respondents who still haven’t heard about the disease, despite its spread, heightened fears in the US and abroad, campaigns by the CDC, WHO, and others, expanded news coverage of Zika, and the onset of the Olympics in Brazil with media coverage heavily focused on Zika concerns.

As summer nears and certain US states are at higher risk of having Zika-carrying mosquitos, awareness has intensified in the country.  We found it surprising that again—in June—we would still see that one in five at-risk women did not know of Zika. This made us wonder: who are these women?

When we conducted the MicroSurvey, we asked participating women basic demographic questions—education level, ethnicity, and income. The data indicate that women who don’t know about Zika are really not very different from those who DO. For example:

  • Very similar racial and ethnic differences. About two-thirds of both groups who responded to our survey are Caucasian, with 68% of those who don’t know about it reporting they were Caucasian, 10% African American, 9% Hispanic, and some minor representation of a variety of ethnicities. For those who have heard of Zika, 72% stated they were Caucasian, with very similar breakdowns of other ethnicities.
  • Income differences, but not what you’d think.   More than half of both respondent groups in the surveys (55% of those who know and 62% for those who don’t know ) make less than $50,000 per year. And very few make more than $100,000 per year in both groups, with 10% for those who do know and 7% for those who don’t know.  

Here’s where we did find some areas of distinction:

  • Less than $20,000/year income level. There is a large delta in the income levels for those who make less than $20,000 per year –  with 12% from those who know versus 23% from those who don’t know.
  • Education.  Perhaps the biggest difference between the women who know about the disease and those who don’t is their level of education. For those who don’t know about Zika, 64% of respondents said they don’t have a college degree, and 36% do. It’s almost the inverse for those who know it: with 42% lacking a college degree and 58% having one.

These findings  appear to indicate that the women who continue to be unaware of the Zika virus are lower income and less educated.  Reaching them might require more creative forms of outreach than those currently being applied. But it will also be imperative to get the word out to these women as Federal funding is disbursed, as more Zika cases emerge throughout the US, and as new understanding on symptoms and modes of transmission emerge.

It will be interesting to see what the next Zika virus tracking survey tells us. We’ll be following this issue closely as the summer progresses, awareness grows, and the situation evolves.

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