Research Priorities to Inform Public Health and Medical Practice for Domestic Zika Virus: A Workshop
At the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will host a one-day public workshop on February 16, 2016 to explore potential research priorities arising as a result of the emergence of Zika virus in the United States.
Zika virus, a single-stranded RNA virus of the Flaviviridae family, transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, is endemic to parts of Africa and Asia, and has recently spread to South and Central America, and the Caribbean. In the Americas, the Zika virus first emerged in Brazil in 2015 and has since spread rapidly across the region, with local transmission in at least 26 countries in South and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Given the rapid spread of Zika virus throughout the Americas and the presence of its vector mosquito species within parts of the U.S., there is need to better define the risks associated with this emerging virus.
Although an estimated 80% of people infected with the Zika virus never develop signs or symptoms, and symptoms for those that do are usually mild—rarely requiring hospitalization—there is a growing concern about the association between Zika virus infection in pregnant women and babies born with microcephaly and other severe neurodevelopmental birth defects. Questions have also been raised about the potential link between Zika virus infection and Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS), a neurologic syndrome that manifests with weakness or paralysis.
There is an urgent need for additional research to better characterize the Zika virus, especially those issues related to means of transmission and infection during pregnancy. Additional epidemiologic, entomologic, and virology research of the Zika virus under real-world conditions could provide a more robust evidence base to inform medical and public health efforts to protect those at-risk. Such research could also provide much needed answers to questions about health risks and appropriate public health and medical interventions.
This workshop will bring together key stakeholders and experts to discuss the research priorities needed to inform medical and public health practice that can be implemented under real world conditions to better understand the true risk that Zika virus poses to the public in the U.S. and adequate prevention efforts and interventions to mitigate that risk.
The workshop will bring together key stakeholders and experts to identify, discuss, and explore:
- Key factors to reduce the likelihood of local transmission of Zika virus in the U.S. (e.g., epidemiological characteristics; virus vectors and reservoirs; disease pathogenesis and consequences of infection; and clinical management and public health interventions and strategies);
- Areas of insufficient knowledge related to the key factors and prevention strategies;
- Research questions of specific concern (e.g., establishing causality or the absence of causality between Zika virus and microcephaly); and
- Critical communication needs of evidence-based information for public health officials, providers, and the general public regarding the level of risk and associated risk factors; transmissibility of the virus; associated health consequences; and the measures and strategies that should be taken to minimize the number of infections and prevent spread of Zika virus in the U.S.
The workshop will be held at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, D.C. Plenary sessions and discussions will be available via live video webcast. Following the event, a brief written document based on the presentations and discussions held at the workshop will be prepared. No consensus findings or recommendations will be issued.
** The online registration for in person attendance is now CLOSED. If you would still like to attend the workshop, we will have walk-in registration available on Febraury 16, 2016 starting at 8:00 a.m.