There is still so much that we don’t know about Zika. I was recently speaking with a medical historian who wondered if people in eastern Africa and Asia might have resistance to the disease, since it originated in those areas, or whether the epidemic will spread as explosively as it did in South America? Will the rate of birth defects be lower in newly affected countries, because mothers have more information to protect themselves? Which species of mosquito will be able to transmit the virus? How rapidly will the epidemic spread? What percentage of babies born to mothers infected with Zika will have neurological issues, even when they do not have microcephaly?
There are a few useful resources that I’ve found for Zika. Vincent Racaniello is a highly respected virologist, who has a popular podcast called “This Week in Virology” or “TWIV,” and a free online virology course. His lab spent decades working on polio, but recently shifted its focus on Zika. His new blog, Zika Diaries, give a sense of what science is like in an emerging field. Nothing is easy for the lab, from obtaining the virus, to acquiring permission to do experiments with mice.
One of the first tools that I try to create when working on an article is a timeline for events. With Zika, Ben Hirschler at Reuters has already done that work, and created a detailed timeline.
For anyone interested in the early history of Zika’s discovery in Uganda, I recommend Thomas K. Grose’s piece on NPR, which discusses a researcher studying Alexander John Haddow’s records in the University of Glasgow archives. Overall, NPR has outstanding coverage of the Zika outbreak.
Lastly, the CDC website offers practical information on Zika, including those areas where the Zika virus is circulating, and how to protect yourself.
Shawn Smallman, 2016