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Zika virus and mosquito experts


The World Health Organization reports the Zika virus is "spreading explosively" in the Americas. The following Purdue University experts can discuss the virus, how it spreads and interacts with humans and mosquitos, mosquito control, and ways to protect from mosquito bites, as well as what this means for women's health, fears related to public health outbreaks, and travel and tourism.

Richard Kuhn, professor and head of biological sciences, currently studies the Zika virus and has studied flaviviruses, a group that includes Zika, dengue and West Nile, for more than 10 years. The National Institutes of Health funds his research into the Zika virus, and his focus is on the viral replication and interactions with human and mosquito hosts. Kuhn, along with Michael Rossmann, Purdue's Hanley Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, identify targets for vaccines, antiviral drugs and treatments for viruses within the flavivirus group, and were among the team that was to first map the structure of the dengue virus in 2002. Kuhn also is the inaugural director of the Purdue Institute for Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Diseases (PI4D).

CONTACT: Richard Kuhn, 765-494-4407,

Research website:

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Catherine Hill, professor of medical entomology, vector biology and a public health Extension specialist, studies the biology of insects that cause human diseases. Hill can also discuss transmission, epidemiology, symptoms and prevention of mosquito-borne diseases. Much of her research focuses on mosquito-borne flaviviruses, including dengue and chikungunya, which are similar to Zika and vectored by the same mosquitoes. She can discuss the biology of Zika-transmitting mosquitoes, how to control them, how to reduce risk of contracting Zika and how dengue can help researchers make limited predictions about the spread and transmission of Zika. She is the coordinator of the Purdue Entomology Public Health Extension Program, which aims to reduce transmission of vector-borne diseases through education.

Hill also collaborated with Val Watts, associate head and professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, to identify a new class of insecticides that could provide a safer, more selective means of controlling mosquitoes that transmit infectious diseases. Hill and Watts used the mosquito genome to pinpoint chemicals that disrupt the mechanics of dopamine, leading to the insect's death. The chemicals are more selective than current insecticides, which bind readily to molecules in humans and non-target insects.

CONTACT: Catherine Hill, 765-496-6157,

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Timothy Gibb, integrated pest management specialist and insect diagnostician, is a Purdue Extension entomologist. His background is in Extension and outreach communications for mosquito integrated pest management. He has expertise in insect diagnostics, personal protection from insects, and cultural and chemical mosquito control (larvicides and adulticides) and their application.

CONTACT: Timothy Gibb, 765-494-4570,

Wendy Kline, the Dema G. Seelye Chair in the History of Medicine, can talk about how the Zika virus affects women's reproductive health from a social standpoint, as women in certain areas are told to delay pregnancies due to the virus causing birth defects. Kline also can discus anxieties about contagion from the mosquito-borne disease, and how the recent Ebola crisis affects such fears about public health outbreaks.

Kline is internationally recognized for her scholarship in the history of medicine, history of women's health and the history of childbirth. She is the author of "Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women's Health in the Second Wave" and "Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom." She teaches the following courses: "History of Public Health," "Women and Health in America," "Death, Disease, and Medicine in the 20th Century," and "Sex, Race, and Science."

CONTACT: Wendy Kline,

Pamela M. Aaltonen, associate professor and associate head of the School of Nursing, specializes in public health issues and can talk in general about public health outbreaks and what is known and unknown about the Zika virus.

Aaltonen has served as chair of the executive board of the American Public Health Association. She also has served in leadership roles for the Indiana State Department of Health, Area Health Education Centers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Special Emphasis Panel, Indiana Public Health Training Center Advisory Council and the Indiana Public Health Association.

CONTACT: Pamela M. Aaltonen,

Jonathon Day, associate professor in hospitality and tourism management, can talk about the economic impact the Zika virus has on international travel destinations. Day also can discuss how hospitality industry campaigns can help consumers evaluate destinations for health and safety.

Day has been instrumental in developing marketing strategies for international tourism destinations. His research interests include sustainable tourism and hospitality practices.

CONTACT: Jonathon Day,


Elizabeth K. Gardner, 765-494-2081,

Natalie van Hoose, 765-496-2050,

Keith Robinson, 765-494-2722,

Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

John Hughey, 765-494-2432,


Original Article published in Purdue News on January 28, 2016.

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