Monday, June 24, 2024

UTD Lecture will address public health threats from Zika and Ebola

In early 2014, West Africa experienced history’s most widespread outbreak of the often-fatal Ebola virus. The spread of the disease and response to that outbreak had implications throughout the world, including in Dallas, the location of the first case diagnosed in the U.S.

Now, the mosquito-borne Zika virus has been reported in dozens of countries in South, Central and North America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 220 travel-related cases have been reported in Texas, including 39 in Dallas County. While usually not life-threatening to adults, Zika infection during pregnancy can cause certain severe birth defects.


What’s the next infectious threat?

On Friday at 7 p.m., a free public lecture titled “Zika and Ebola: Why We’ll Always Have Pandemics” will be presented on the UT Dallas campus by Dr. Tara Smith, associate professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health at Kent State University. She is also an American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Distinguished Lecturer.

In her talk, Smith will examine what was learned from the 2014 Ebola outbreak, if those lessons have affected the Zika response, and what needs to happen so we are prepared for the next emerging disease.

The event, geared for a lay audience, is presented as part of the fall meeting of the Texas Branch of the ASM, hosted by UT Dallas. Smith’s talk in the Edith O’Donnell ATEC Building lecture hall is free, but tickets are required to attend. Go here to register.

“It’s important for the public to be informed about the realistic threats we face from emerging infectious diseases,” said Dr. Kelli Palmer, assistant professor of biological sciences at UT Dallas and organizer of the ASM scientific conference.

It’s important for the public to be informed about the realistic threats we face from emerging infectious diseases.

“We are thrilled to host Dr. Smith at UT Dallas. This is a great opportunity for the campus and North Texas communities to learn more about emerging infectious diseases that are relevant to our area,” said Palmer, who investigates how bacteria acquire resistance to antibiotics.

Smith is an expert on zoonotic infections, which are those that are transferred between animals and humans. She has studied infectious diseases for 20 years in the U.S. and around the globe and was the first to identify livestock-associated strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the United States.

Smith has presented her research at numerous national and international platforms, including Capitol Hill. She has written three books on infectious disease topics, maintains a science blog called Aetiology, and writes about infectious diseases for media outlets, including,, the Guardian, Politico, io9, and other sites. Smith is also a member of the advisory board of the Zombie Research Society.

Smith joined the Kent State faculty in 2013. She previously spent nine years in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health, where she directed the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases.


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