Yale School of Public Health professor Dr. Albert Ko has been named to an international panel that will address the emerging threat posed by the Zika virus.
[Photo: Dr. Albert Ko]
The Zika Task Force, launched by the Global Virus Network (GVN), is comprised of 23 experts in every class of virus-causing disease in humans. It has been charged with accelerating research, testing, treatment and developing prevention tools for clinics worldwide.
Since the virus was first identified in Brazil in early 2015, Dr. Ko has been working with Brazilian colleagues to determine if the virus is responsible for a sharp increase in the number of cases of microcephaly (a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head and incomplete brain development). He has also researched other health consequences that appear to be associated with Zika, including damage to tissues outside the central nervous system.
Dr. Ko, chair of the department of epidemiology of microbial disease, has a longstanding research collaboration at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Salvador, Brazil, and studies leptospirosis and other infectious diseases that primarily afflict the urban poor.
The GVN represents 35 Centers of Excellence and five affiliates in 26 countries. The purpose of the task force is to catalyze urgent international collaborative research. Dr. Scott Weaver, who is co-chair of the GVN’s Chuikungunya Task Force, will serve as chair of the Zika group. He said the panel will begin model development next month and continue with vaccine research.
The Zika virus is spread to humans through the bite of the Aedes species of mosquito, which also spreads the chikungunya and dengue viruses. Zika is present in 29 countries and one U.S. territory. The virus is generally mild—flu-like symptoms, joint pain, eye inflammation and rashes. But serious complications, including Guillain-Barre syndrome (temporary paralysis), microcephaly and other conditions have been reported and are suspected.
The country with the highest number of confirmed Zika cases is Brazil, followed by Colombia.
For more information on the Zika Task Force and the Global Virus Network, visit http://gvn.org