The ongoing Zika virus has made headlines for its spread across the Americas and its link to devastating birth defects. Yet a new poll reveals that many Americans are confused about the characteristics of the virus, including the fact that a Zika infection does not harm future pregnancies for a woman who is not pregnant when she gets infected.
In the new poll, researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health polled 1,275 adults—which included 105 people who live in households where someone is pregnant or considering getting pregnant in the next 12 months—and discovered there is a lot of confusion about Zika. For example, they found that close to 40% of people believe the Zika virus can harm future pregnancies. Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says there's no evidence that the Zika virus will cause birth defects in the future among non-pregnant women with current or previous infection.
Women who have had a Zika infection are told they should wait at least eight weeks after the start of their symptoms before attempting to conceive, and male partners with Zika should wait six months.
The poll also revealed that in households where a woman is pregnant or considering it, more than 20% of people are not aware of the connection between Zika and the microcephaly. An additional 20% believe there is a vaccine that can protect against the virus (there is not). Slightly over 40% of people also do not know that the virus can be sexually transmitted.
Among the general population, 71% surveyed were unaware of the link between Zika and the paralysis disease Guillain-Barré syndrome.
The researchers said in a statement that misconceptions about the virus will need to be corrected before mosquito season hits the states. What's encouraging is that most people in involved in the poll said they do take precautions to protect themselves against mosquitoes in the summer.
For more information about the Zika virus, check out our coverage.