2016 UF/IFAS Zika Challenge Impacts

Zika is a mosquito-transmitted virus of which there are no vaccines currently available (Lounibos et al, 2016). It is primarily spreading in tropical regions of the world. Four out of five infected people do not develop symptoms. Those that do have signs and symptoms might have fevers, joint pain, rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle pain and headache. The occurrence of Zika in Brazil provoked alarm because of increased incidents of infants born with microcephaly.  In Florida, Zika virus is spreads primarily by two species of invasive container-breeding mosquitoes: Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.

Zika Mosquitoes

The invasive mosquitoes Aedes aegypti (left) and Aedes albopictus (right) occur in the Americas, including Florida, and have been implicated in the transmission of Zika virus.
Credit: J Newman, UF/IFAS/FMEL


The Zika Challenge was born from informal discussions between Ken Gioeli, UF/IFAS St Lucie County Natural Resources Extension Agent, and Dr. Roxanne Connelly, Professor of Medical Entomology with the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Lab. The goal was to engage extension agents in outreach efforts to connect Floridians to UF/IFAS research-based information about mosquito management and personal protection. UF/IFAS administration supported these efforts and the Zika Challenge was issued to UF/IFAS extension agents on June 6, 2016.

The goal of the Zika Challenge was to provide professional development for UF/IFAS extension agents and to engage extension agents in outreach efforts that connect Floridians to UF/IFAS research-based information about mosquito management and personal protection. Public workshops were conducted. The Zika Challenge was promoted through social media and follow-up surveys were sent to measure adoption of practices. Extension volunteers were also trained on these practices to be better able to give accurate information to friends and neighbors.

Zika Challenge results

2016 Zika Challenge Impacts

The UF/IFAS Zika Challenge was an effective way to rapidly mobilize extension agents across Florida to address this public health threat. Twelve UF/IFAS extension agents participated in the Zika Challenge. Professional development opportunities resulted in these twelve extension agents earning public health pest control licenses. These extension agents then engaged with 2,271 people in sixteen workshops specifically addressing mosquito management, Zika virus and personal protection. Twenty published works were produced and the public was engaged via mass media/social media six times.

Created by
K. Gioeli ktgioeli@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County Natural Resources, R. Connelly crr@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Assistant Professor, Extension Specialist Department of Entomology and Nematology

County-level leadership provided by
McConnell juliebmcconnell@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension Bay County Horticulture; S. Strickland jsstrick@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County Extension Director Agriculture, J. Davis dvisshdn@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension Sumter County Interim Extension Director Horticulture, B. Hall-Scharf bhallscharf@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County Sea Grant, S. Dunning sdunning@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension Okaloosa County Commercial Horticulture, D. Demorest dndemorest@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension Columbia County Environmental Horticulture, M. Hunter maxine32666@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension Marion County Residential Horticulture, W. Lester wlester@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County Horticulture, E. Skvarch eask@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County Extension Director Commercial Horticulture, S. Scalera sasc@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Residential Horticulture, J. Walter jwalter@ufl.edu UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Agriculture

Literature Cited
Lounibos, L., Alto, B., Burkett-Cadena, N., Lord, C., Smartt, C., Connelly, C., and Rey, J. 2016. Zika, a Mosquito-Transmitted Virus. UF/IFAS EDIS. [Online] http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in1120