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Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden help assess the risk that Zika will spread to Europe by describing the transmission season, areas at risk and intervention strategies. By using previous knowledge on Dengue, they are now strategizing on how Zika can be controlled. “From a European perspective, the best immediate response to Zika is to help prevent the spread of the virus where the outbreak takes place,” says Joacim Rocklöv, epidemiologist at the Department of Public Health and Clinical medicine at Umeå University.
As Europe responds to the global threat of the Zika virus, a team of leading experts on Dengue and other mosquito-borne viruses are providing crucial expertise. Dengue and Zika viruses are carried by some of the same mosquito types and also share a number of characteristics in terms of how viral infections manifest. Therefore, what the scientific community already knows about Dengue will be key in efforts to understand and prevent the spread of Zika. In this effort, Umeå University’s current leading role in the Dengue research is highly relevant. Umeå University researchers are in dialogue with the European Centre for Disease Prevention Control (ECDC) to advice on the many knowledge gaps on Zika.
Umeå University has since 2011 hosted DengueTools, an EU funded research consortium, developing innovative interventions for predicting and fighting the mosquito transmitted virus. This international research effort, which includes 14 partners in 11 different countries, has resulted in a model research infrastructure that can now be applied to fight the Zika virus.
“We can now use the well-functioning infrastructure we have already built through the Dengue Tools consortium to fight the spread of Zika. And in this existing model, Brazil, which has been hit hard by Zika, is already a strong partner,” says Joacim Rocklöv.
The World Health Organization announced on 1 February that the rapid spread of the Zika virus amounts a global health emergency, echoing a call by the EU to fund research on the topic. In addition to the Umeå researchers’ role as expert consultants to the ECDC, the Umeå University researchers, led by Joacim Rocklöv and Professor Annelies Wilder-Smith, are answering this call and capitalizing on the existing partnerships, infrastructures, technologies and knowledge developed through DengueTools consortium to combat the ongoing Zika pandemic.