The Zika virus outbreak and its growing correlation with microcephaly, and other birth defects and neurological disorders, has caused concern around the world and here in the United States. Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological condition leading to muscle weakness, permanent or temporary paralysis, and in some cases, death.
And unlike other disease outbreaks, the spread of Zika is proving harder to identify, map, contain, and—in some ways—understand. As a result, we’ve seen some strange advice shared with the public, including recommendations that, in some Central and South American countries, women avoid becoming pregnant for varying lengths of time.
“As the weeks and months go by, we learn more and more about how much we don’t know, and the more we learn the worse things seem to get,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an article published recently in the Washington Post.
As we work through the kind of uncertainty Dr. Fauci described, I’ve realized that the public health workforce needs clearer messages that will raise awareness about how people can protect themselves from this virus.
The Public Health Learning Network (PHLN) plays a key role in ensuring that the public health workforce has access to excellent training, tools, and resources to meet this challenge. And, the PHLN provides ‘just-in-time’ training to help those working in public health build key skills that directly applicable to Zika now, but that will also increase competence in responding to other emergencies.
For example, the Region IV Public Health Training Center recently hosted a training led by Georgia’s State Epidemiologist that provided an introduction to basic epidemiological and disease investigation skills applied specifically to the Zika virus.
Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, where officials expect hundreds of thousands of people, including pregnant women, will be infected by Zika in 2016, the University of Puerto Rico provided a Spanish-language training on health promotion for not only Zika, but other mosquito-borne illness, including Dengue and Chikungunya.
The PHLN will continue to offer resources, like these just-in-time training, tools, and resources, to support your work in protecting the public from Zika virus and building enduring public health skills to respond to future emergencies. Check out our resource library and the SlideShare deck below, to see the latest resources crafted for you.
- The Public Health Learning Network: “Our Latest Work: Supporting the U.S. Response to Zika virus”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Zika Virus”
- Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange