Date of Award


Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Gerardo Chowell-Puente

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephanie Dopson

Third Advisor

Dr. Scott Butler


The Zika virus was first identified in 1948 but was relatively unknown until 2015, when Brazil began to report a significant increase in the numbers of babies with congenital defects. It is a virus that is primarily transmitted by mosquitos and primarily effects the nervous system. With its tropical climate and constant mosquito presence, Puerto Rico was the location of a massive outbreak during 2015-2016. However, the response to the outbreak faced several hurdles despite Brazil already reporting an increase in microcephaly. The purpose of this review is to examine the political and historical factors that hampered the initial response to the 2015 Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico and how they affected the perceived risk of the Zika virus. It is crucial that intensive health education campaigns and vaccine development continue in order to ensure that a second outbreak does not occur and result in a greater number of babies diagnosed with Congenital Zika Syndrome.