Zika virus: The media’s new Ebola

by | Jan 27, 2016 | Health, Media, Politics and Government - Global, Popculture

In the past month well over 25,000 English online articles have been written about Zika virus. For those who haven’t heard about the virus, it’s related to Yellow Fever and West Nile disease.

Like yellow fever and West Nile disease, Zika is transmitted by mosquitoes. Symptoms include mild fever, a rash, headaches, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, but it’s not those that have caught the media’s attention: It’s the risk of birth defects for pregnant women.

No vaccine for the virus exists, and El Salvador has even taken the extreme measure of telling women to avoid getting pregnant for the next two years.

Combine stories like these with the horrific association between Zika virus and birth defects, and it’s a perfect storm for the media.

With winter vacation season in full swing and the Olympics coming up in Rio de Janeiro, this could spell trouble for the both central and South America. The negative media attention will probably have a major impact on countries that depend on tourism in the Caribbean and both both central and South America.

By the numbers:

Most mentioned countries (percentage by sourced article):
zika virus

“CDC has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico,” says the CDC’s website.

Travel insurance is even covering pregnant women opting to cancel their vacation.

Zika virus could potentially be a greater impact on economies than Ebola and like Ebola, much of the hysteria will be media generated.

Affected countries, industries, and health organizations would be wise to track what’s being said about the virus and ensure that information is being communicated both accurately and honestly.


Most mentioned health organizations (percentage by sourced article):
zika virus

Industries/events mentioned (percentage by sourced article):
zika virus

Brett Serjeantson