Newswise — RTI is funding four studies in Latin American to better understand the effects of Zika on pregnant women and which trimester a baby is most at risk; the long-term effects of the virus on babies and their families; how drones can be used for vector control activities of Zika-carrying mosquitos; and the public's understanding of the virus and how to prevent it.
The following experts are available to comment:
Pia MacDonald, Ph.D., senior director of RTI’s Center for Applied Public Health Research has two decades of experience in epidemiologic research and public health, nationally and internationally, specifically on infectious disease epidemiology and surveillance and public health preparedness systems. She can speak to the outbreak and public health aspects of the Zika virus. She is leading a pilot cohort study enrolling women in Southwestern Guatemala who are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant. Her team will evaluate neonatal outcomes, including microcephaly, among women with Zika infection during pregnancy and women who are not infected during pregnancy.
Don Bailey, Ph.D., Distinguished Fellow at RTI and internationally known expert on young children with disabilities. He can discuss the effects of microcephaly on children and families and the importance of early identification and early intervention programs. He plans to meet with health officials and research collaborators in Brazil to explore the possibility of a longitudinal study of families and affected by Zika and the role of early intervention programs.
Richard Reithinger, vice president of global health at RTI International is the foremost expert in infectious diseases, specifically control of malaria and neglected tropical diseases and has extensive global experience. He has oversight of RTI’s ENVISION project, a global project to control and eliminate seven neglected tropical diseases by 2020 and previously, while at USAID, he led the President’s Malaria Initiative in Ethiopia. He can speak to the vector control issues of the mosquito as well as the public health practices.
Joe Eyerman, Ph.D., director of RTI’s Center for Security, Defense and Safety at RTI International, is an expert in using unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for research. Vector control is currently the only disease prevention option available to Zika. Eyerman is using drones to map potential breeding locations for the Zikus virus carrying Aedes mosquitos such as pots, old tires, and discarded swimming pools. The improved mapping will enable targeted efforts to eliminate the mosquito breeding habitat and improve behavior change communication programs to high risk villages and areas of towns and cities.
Brian Southwell, Ph.D., program director, Science in the Public Sphere at RTI International, is an expert in communication and human behavior. His large-scale evaluation work has spanned behaviors and audiences, including cancer prevention and screening promotion efforts, national campaigns to discourage drug and tobacco use, efforts to bolster television news coverage of science, and various state-level campaigns. He also has studied public understanding of energy and related topics. He can speak to public attitudes and perceptions concerning the Zika virus. He is leading a study in Guatemala to understand the perceptions, attitudes and behaviors members of the public have about the Zika virus and how to prevent transmission.