Via Nature News & Comment, an editorial: Zika must remain a high priority. Excerpt:
Are this summer’s Olympic Games under threat from the Zika virus? Or, more importantly perhaps, are the competitors and spectators? Athletes such as US women’s soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo have said they will go “begrudgingly”, and will barely leave their hotel rooms. Some have called for the event to be cancelled.
This overestimates the risk of Zika to visitors. Although public-health agencies have advised pregnant women to avoid countries with active Zika transmission owing to the threat of birth defects, there are much more pertinent threats to the average visitor to Brazil, including dengue virus and random street violence. Much remains unknown about Zika, but a great deal is known, too, and it suggests that there is no reason to cancel the event.
That we know so much so soon is a victory. When the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded last month that the Zika virus causes birth defects, that marked the conclusion of one of the quickest-ever basic-science investigations into a crucial public-health issue. Some researchers expected it to take years. In the end, it took just six months.
The CDC cited a growing number of studies using a range of approaches, including epidemiological, molecular and pathological, that showed a link between Zika and birth defects. The wisdom of making such a declaration so quickly remains a matter of some debate, but it is noteworthy that the global scientific community was able to organize itself in a relatively rapid fashion. There are three main reasons why this happened, and they offer lessons for research in future outbreaks.