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.

The Involvement of Routine Dental Care in Prenatal Care as a Tool for Quality Counseling in the context of Zika in El Salvador

Dr. Lorena Arevalo, dentist UCSFI San Isidro, Cabanas sharing Zika prevention methods with patients during dental treatments UCSFI San Isidro is one of the Health Centers in the north of El Salvador that USAID's Project Applying Science to...

Doctora Danny Peña, un ejemplo de buenas prácticas en Tamizaje Neonatal

Dra. Danny Peña facilitando en la Jornada de Tamizaje Neonatal para microcefalia en el Servicio Regional de Salud V, San Pedro de Macorís, República Dominicana La doctora Danny Peña es Pediatra Perinatóloga en el Hospital Universitario...

Dr. Danny Peña, an example of good practices on Neonatal Screening

Dr. Danny Peña as facilitator during the Neonatal Screening for Microcephaly Workshop in Regional Health Service V, San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic Dr. Danny Peña is a Perinatologist Pediatrician at the Maternity Nuestra Señora de...

Control de microcefalia en recién nacidos en la República Dominicana

“Tuvimos que reeducarnos mentalmente a nosotros mismos. Aun si las personas dicen: “no existe el Zika”, debemos continuar con la prevención y mantenerlo dentro de la atención general de las embarazadas que vienen al centro a dar a luz, ya...

Working Together: A Regional Approach to Improving Skin-to-Skin Contact and Well-baby Care in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean

Morgan Mickle


By Morgan Mickle, Gender Specialist, WI-HER, LLC

“A third of low birth weight babies die within the first twelve hours after delivery, largely because they get cold very quickly, causing them to stop feeding and leaving them more susceptible to infection.” – Maternal and Child Survival Program (1)

Screening for Microcephaly in Newborns in the Dominican Republic

Screening for Microcephaly in Newborns in the Dominican Republic "We had to reeducate ourselves mentally. Even if people say: ‘there is no Zika’ since in the country the Aedes Aegypti mosquito is endemic, we must continue with prevention...

Celebrating Accomplishments in the Care and Support Zika-Affected Children and Families

Celebrating Accomplishments in the Care and Support Zika-Affected Children and Families The ASSIST Project coordinated the USAID Care and Support for Infants, Mothers, and Families affected by Zika conference in Panama City from April 24th...

Ideas de cambio con perspectiva de género se destacan entre las principales buenas prácticas en la atención prenatal en el contexto del Zika en la República Dominicana

Elga Salvador

WI-HER/ Senior Gender Advisor

Por Elga Salvador, asesora en género senior, WI-HER, LLC

El 10 de abril 2019, el equipo del Proyecto de USAID Aplicando la Ciencia para Fortalecer y Mejorar los Sistemas de Salud (ASSIST) de la República Dominicana llevó a cabo la Segunda Sesión de Aprendizaje de Equipos de Mejora de la Calidad del Colaborativo de Atención Prenatal, integrado por el personal de salud y autoridades de hospitales de distintas regiones de salud del país. 

Gender integration strategies stand out among the best practices in prenatal care in the context of Zika in the Dominican Republic

Elga Salvador

WI-HER/ Senior Gender Advisor

By Elga Salvador, Senior Gender Technical Advisor, WI-HER, LLC

On April 10, the USAID-funded Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Health Systems (ASSIST) Project held the second “Learning Session” with the Quality Improvement (QI) teams of the Prenatal Care Collaborative in the Dominican Republic. This Collaborative is implemented by health authorities and staff from hospitals located in different regions throughout the country.