Healthify Blog

Who Would Zika Affect the Most in the U.S.?

If the cluster of Zika cases recently reported in Florida spreads further, the virus's impact in the United States would likely disproportionately affect the poor.

The World Health Organization recently told NPR that the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the Zika virus likes to breed in stagnant waters commonly found in discarded tires and flowerpots. In light of standing water being more common in poorer areas, the WHO initially advised visitors to Rio for the Olympic Games to "avoid visiting impoverished or overcrowded areas," NPR reported.

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 The less money people have, the less they can afford  basic protections, and the more likely they are to live in  neighborhoods with inadequate trash collection or illegal  dumping, Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of  Tropical Medicine at Baylor College, told USA Today.

 "Having low-quality housing means you don't have air  conditioning, you don't have window screens, and the  mosquitoes can easily fly into the home," Hotez told the news organization.

In addition, there is a greater chance the impoverished cannot afford healthcare and contraception, USA Today reported. That's especially a cause of concern given the recent discovery that Zika can be sexually transmitted not only from men to women but also women to men.

Meanwhile, the New York Times took note of the poverty factor in a different way: large numbers of women, many uninsured or low-income immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America, are not being screened and tested in a systematic way in New York City.

The newspaper reported that officials found that a disproportionate number of those tested were from higher-income neighborhoods, compared with a smaller figure for lower-income neighborhoods with large populations of immigrants from Zika-associated places.

From Healthify's perspective, the Zika problem has underscored the importance of addressing social determinants that can have a bigger influence on health outcomes than medical care. To that end, Healthify provides the technology to efficiently connect underserved people to social programs that can meet basic needs such as food and shelter.

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Topics: social determinants of health health disparities