Zika virus: Separating Fact from Fiction at Kirkby SciBar

News article 21 Apr 2016

This week LSTM’s Dr Lee Haines, a postdoctoral researcher in Vector Biology, spoke at Kirkby SciBar at Holy Angels Social Club in Kirkby Liverpool. 

Her informative and engaging talk entitled Zika virus: Separating Fact from Fiction on the current Zika virus outbreak in South America was given to over 20 members of the public over drinks. Her talk began by introducing the Zika virus, the different routes of transmission to humans including through the bite of an infected mosquito, the epidemiology of the current outbreak, clinical symptoms and the issues surrounding diagnostics and surveillance of those infected with the virus.  She went on to describe the evidence backing the association between Zika infection and microcephaly and further described many other neurological abnormalities in babies and adults that are thought to be linked to Zika.

Dr Haines demonstrated the life cycle of the Aedes mosquito using live mosquitoes and larvae (kindly supplied by LITE) which the audience found fascinating. She explained the current strategies for controlling the mosquito populations, which include indoor spraying of insecticide, fogging and the addition of larvicide into drinking water. Dr Haines also explained some of issues and conspiracy theories surrounding the use of these methods.

Questions from the public touched on a variety of topic areas including current research into microcephaly in mouse and primate models, the release of genetically modified mosquitoes produced by Oxitec as a form of mosquito vector control and how to keep local mosquito populations under control within your home.

The key points repeated by Dr Haines throughout the evening was that there are a number of knowledge gaps that still need to be addressed by researchers  as our understanding of Zika and its complications is still not adequate enough to effectively implement disease control measures.

Dr Haines commented: “The evening was a great success, and I enjoyed interacting with such an interested public.  It was impressive how many excellent questions were posed by the attendees and the venue at Holy Angels Social Club was perfect for hosting this event.  Hopefully I managed to enlighten everyone on the many issues thrown into focus by the Zika outbreak, which extend beyond the clinical to the social burden of the disease.”  She continued: “keeping abreast of public concerns with regards to the current Zika outbreak and providing them with accurate information is very important to address their concerns and extinguish fears.”

For more information about the Kirkby Scibar, please visit their Facebook page(link is external).

If anyone is interested in taking part in similar public engagement activities, please contact Public Engagement ManagerElli Wright(link sends e-mail).