Interview/ Dr Lyle R. Petersen, director, division of vector-borne diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA
CDC is an American federal agency under the department of health and human services, mandated to protect public health and safety through the prevention of disease, injury and disability. It is in the forefront of global efforts to understand the zika outbreak and develop solutions to counter the infection. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Dr Lyle R. Petersen, who heads the division of vector-borne diseases of CDC, says his organisation has been working with the Indian government to prepare for outbreaks like zika.
How do you rate the possibility of zika spreading across the world, especially in countries like India, where mosquito-borne viruses are a major threat?
CDC has been aware of zika for some time and has been helping countries prepare for outbreaks like zika. CDC works with governments, ministries of health and other international partners, including the Government of India, to enhance disease surveillance, equip diagnostic laboratories, and support disease control programmes, both in the United States and around the world. We are not able to predict how much zika virus would spread. Many areas have the type of mosquitoes that can become infected with and spread zika virus. To prevent the spread of diseases carried by mosquitoes, it is important to maintain and improve our ability to identify and test for zika and other mosquito-borne diseases.
With zika affecting vast sections of the population, a country like India with 1.2 billion population could be a time bomb.
CDC is working in laboratories and in dozens of countries, with ministries of health, and with partners around the world to garner a deeper understanding of zika virus. We are also helping to prevent, control and respond to the zika outbreak, along with outbreaks of other diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever and other vector-borne diseases.
Do you think the developing world is equipped to deal with zika?
Multiple institutions in India have asked for CDC assistance for zika reagents. CDC India consulted with CDC Atlanta and Fort Collins and with their assistance were able to facilitate RNA lysate positive controls for four institutions: The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru, Manipal University, the National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi and National Institute of Virology in Pune. These are all longstanding CDC partners and Global Health Security Agenda funding recipients with CDC India. We also provided the CDC protocol for use of these controls. Through our strong relationship, we are supporting one another to detect and report zika cases, which will help prevent spread of the disease, and to test and verify cases.