The recent emergence and rapid spread of the Zika virus presents a grave, new challenge for health systems and practitioners across the Zika-affected regions, as they work to address the unique health needs and concerns of individuals and families affected by the epidemic.

Zika is spread primarily through the Aedes mosquito – the same species of mosquito that spreads dengue and chikungunya – but the virus can also be transmitted via sexual contact. Common symptoms of Zika for an otherwise healthy adult include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache, lasting up to a week.However, most concerning for health workers is that Zika is passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy.

While the symptoms for an adult are mild, Zika infection during pregnancy can have grave consequences for the growing fetus. Zika infection during pregnancy has been linked to an increase in birth defects across the Zika-affected regions, particularly a serious birth defect called microcephaly, which results in unusually small heads and brain damage in newborns.

As part of USAID’s Zika response, ASSIST has been implementing health systems strengthening efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean to provide targeted support to health systems affected by the Zika virus. ASSIST is working to improve the capacity of Zika-related health services to deliver consistent, evidence-based, respectful, high-quality care—with a focus on pregnant women, newborns, and women of reproductive age.

To learn more about our work improving care in Zika, read this overview and explore our Zika resources and publications below.

In addition to the resources provided here, ASSIST maintains a website in Spanish with exclusively Zika-related content: www.maternoinfantil.org/zika.

Integrating Gender Considerations in the Zika Response: Activities of WI-HER, LLC on the USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems Project

Under ASSIST, WI-HER provided technical assistance to integrate and mainstream gender in Zika emergency response programs in affected Latin American and Caribbean countries. This included conducting gender assessments, gender integration...

Gender Issues Influencing Zika Response in Ecuador

After initial detection in Brazil in May 2015, the recent emergence of Zika virus rapidly swept across the Americas, with cases notified in Ecuador in early 2016. By February 2016, the World Health Organization declared Zika virus...

Los asuntos de género que influyen en la respuesta frente al Zika en Guatemala

El proyecto de USAID Aplicando la Ciencia para Fortalecer y Mejorar los Sistemas de Salud (ASSIST), trabaja a nivel mundial desde el año 2012 para mejorar la calidad y los resultados de la atención en salud y de otros servicios,...

Gender Issues Influencing Zika Response in Guatemala

The USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project has worked globally since 2012 to improve the quality and outcomes of health care and other services by enabling host country providers and managers to apply...

Collaborative Improvement of Newborn Care Focused on Screening for Microcephaly in the Context of Zika in Selected Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean

During the extension period (2017-2020) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project, as part of the USAID response to the Zika virus epidemic in...

Summary Report of the Activities of the USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems Project in Antigua and Barbuda

The USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems (ASSIST) Project provided short-term technical assistance (STTA) over a period of approximately 18 months in Antigua, supporting 27 functioning health facilities – five main...