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Going viral: Study analyzes #Zika and #ZikaVirus posts on Instagram

Nov 12, 2018

Posted in: News

By Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs

Jeanine Guidry
Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D.

During the Zika outbreak in 2016, Instagram was filled with posts about the disease that is spread by mosquitoes and can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, potentially leading to serious birth defects.

A forthcoming study by a Robertson School public relations professor analyzed 1,000 of those social media posts to explore how the public gains an understanding of a complex and highly contagious virus like Zika, particularly on Instagram, a platform popular among women of reproductive age.

A version of the study, “Using the Health Belief Model to Analyze #Zika on Instagram: Implications for Public Health Communications,” will be published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. The study was conducted by Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of public relations, as part of her dissertation at the Department of Health Behavior and Policy in VCU’s School of Medicine.

Guidry’s study analyzed Instagram posts with the hashtags #Zika and #ZikaVirus in August 2016. The goal, she said, is to help public health officials better communicate with the public about serious health messages via social media.

Please read an interview with Dr. Guidry on the website of VCU News, where an earlier version of this article was published.