HCN News & Notes

State Health Officials Launch Zika Awareness Campaign

BOSTON — The Department of Public Health has launched a public information campaign on Zika virus prevention. The campaign focuses on providing information to pregnant women and their sexual partners who may be considering travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

“Our basic message is that, if you or your partner is pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, please consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus is spreading,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “We recognize that many residents travel in the winter months to warmer areas where Zika may be circulating. If you must travel to those areas, take every precaution that you can to avoid mosquito bites while you’re there.”

Infection with Zika virus is of special concern for women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant. That’s because pregnant women who become infected with Zika virus can pass the virus to the baby, which may result in serious lifelong birth defects like microcephaly.

The campaign features a significant investment in materials and outreach efforts to non-English speaking populations in Massachusetts, including communities which speak Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole. Zika virus is currently transmitted in areas of the world which are common travel destinations for Massachusetts residents, including Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean islands.

Information in five languages is available online, and materials can be ordered free of charge.

The campaign encourages women and their partners to talk to their doctor before traveling to Zika-affected areas and to seek appropriate prenatal care after return from an area with active transmission.

“Most people who have Zika never even know it, and they can pass the virus to their partner during sex,” said Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. “That’s why it’s so important that men as well as women know the risks of traveling to Zika-affected areas, and take appropriate precautions when they return.”

The prevention effort will be supported by radio spots in Spanish and Portuguese, plus online and Facebook advertising. Print materials include separate flyers aimed at women and men, as well as a wallet-sized fold-out brochure for women. Each will be available for order from the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole. For more information, visit mass.gov/zika or call (617) 983-6800.

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