Portland Community Conversation Series

Mosquitos, Babies and the zika virus
April 18         

Facilitated by Dawn Nolt, MD MPH, Oregon Health and Sciences University


The Aedes mosquito is thriving in more and more territory, moving northward and carrying with it the worrisome Zika virus. Estimates predict that 2 billion people live in areas at risk for Zika (Bogoch et al, 2016). 


Recent Community Conversations in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA focused on updated knowledge about Zika: who can become infected; what are the symptoms in adults, fetuses and babies; prevention approaches; new diagnostics; vaccine challenges.  We also discussed in depth the research challenges in this climate of rapidly emerging information. 


Zika is frightening.  Not only does it impact growing babies, but it is also implicated in neurological symptoms in adults.  Zika infection can result in fetal microcephaly but also causes serious deficits in brain matter.  The degree of impact is likely on a continuum from obvious signs detectable by ultrasound to other cognitive and behavioral impacts not fully known until a child is born and begins to miss developmental milestones.  We don’t really know the percentage of those exposed who are affected.


A few things really sparked our attendees.  One, science communication needs to balance speedy publications with quality research.  Because the public may not be aware that science typically moves more slowly, Zika developments require special communication that is clear and translated well.  (Stay tuned for more information about our Science Slam Communication Workshop in September).


Two, even though Zika is scary it is competing with many other infectious diseases that are already proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to cause morbidity and mortality.  Funding, public health resources and scientific expertise are all scarce resources that must be doled out justly.  We didn’t figure out the formula.


Three, since there is no current vaccine or therapeutic for Zika, the best thing to do is to prevent infection.  Participants called on personal responsibility regarding risk-taking behavior that includes rethinking travel to Zika-laden areas.  Some advocated for a boycott of the summer Olympics.


Look for a Zika update later this summer.  We hope to have good news for you.



When: April 18th  5:45-7:45p.m.
Where: The Lucky Labrador Pub (North Tap Room) at 1700 N. Killingsworth St., Portland, OR 97217; (503) 505-9511
Cost: $5 in advance or at the door
Includes discussion and one pint or glass of wine if 21+
Contact: Jen Wroblewski, engagement@nwabr.org

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Suggested readings and resources

Zika basics from the CDC

 Zika virus infection in pregnant women in Rio...NEJM March 2016

Zika mystery deepens

Reflections on Previous Topics

In partnership with NWABR members Legacy Research Institute, Oregon Health & Sciences University and Portland State University and supporter Oregon Health Authority.

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