The world wasn’t prepared for Zika to fly across continents in the span of a few months. In 2015, when the virus began rapidly spreading across the Americas, health workers were surprised, and researchers were caught flat-footed when it came time to provide information to protecting the public’s health.
Scientists misjudged Zika virus as a minor and trivial ailment when it was discovered in 1947, says Dr. Ken Stuart, the founder and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle. That oversight is one reason for the dearth of medical knowledge around the virus.
But it didn’t have to be that way, he says. Stuart spoke with NPR’s Ari Shapiro on why the Zika outbreak has unfolded the way it did and how things could have gone better. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.