With the spread of Zika virus reaching a highpoint on February 1, 2016 when it was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) for its association with microcephaly and other neurological disorders, the Priddy Library here at the Universities of Shady Grove (USG) decided we needed to do something. As librarians, we are in a position that allows us to provide access to timely and accurate information. So in addition to a small exhibit created to cover the current information on the Zika virus, we reached out to the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park Public Health Sciences program and to the Office of the Executive Director to plan a panel discussion hosted by the Priddy Library. The panel discussion featured experts who shared their knowledge on the Zika virus and detailed the efforts taken by Montgomery County to fight the spread of the virus to our area.
The panel began with two UMD Public Health Science professors, Dr. Jessica O’Hara and Dr. Gretchen De Silva, who described the Zika virus’s virology and epidemiology, respectfully. Some of the important points Dr. O’Hara provided were on Guillain-Barré syndrome and Microcephaly. Interestingly, although Guillain-Barré syndrome affects adult’s nervous system, some individuals can fully recover. Dr. O’Hara also explained that microcephaly can be identified in utero near the end of the 2nd trimester and no reports have been made of transmission from mothers to infants through breastfeeding. After Dr. De Silva traced the history and exposure of the virus, she explained noteworthy numbers on the confirmed cases in the United States and defining elements of the infections; local and imported.
The panel also included Debra Aplan from the Montgomery County Office of Disease Control & Immunization and Dr. Earl Stoddard from the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security. Aplan and Dr. Stoddard each spoke on the actions being taken by the county to protect people from being infected with the virus, explaining how the county is raising awareness and supplying protection kits for county residents as summer approaches and the risk of being bitten by mosquito’s increases. Montgomery County has also created a website on Zika virus prevention and awareness.