Dr. Michael Callahan is CEO and co-founder of the Zika Foundation. He is a highly respected “physician scientist”, who is board-certified in internal medicine, infectious disease, tropical medicine and mass casualty care, and is on both the clinical and research faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Callahan has clinical appointments globally, including in Thailand, Indonesia, Panama, and Nigeria. From 2005-2012, Dr. Callahan established Prophecy, the first rapid deployment clinical research capability for catastrophic infectious diseases outbreaks, such as Ebola.
Dr. Callahan has served as special advisor on infectious disease to two presidents, the Secretaries of Defense and of Health and Human Services, and the Office of the Commissioner of the FDA. Dr. Callahan has been deployed to 7 mass casualty disease outbreaks, including Ebola, Marburg, H5N1 and H7N9 bird flu, and MERS. He used his experience with dengue to launch the Zika Foundation, where he is accelerating sustainable and low-cost interventions to protect women and men from Aedes mosquitos, which transmit dengue, chikungunya and the Zika virus. His mission is to ensure that the 64 million pregnancies that occur every year in the tropical Americas are kept safe from Zika, and to prevent the epidemic of paralytic Guillain-Barre Syndrome that may well occur in southern nations over the next five years.
The interview that you’re about to see challenges our basic understanding of the Zika virus. Dr. Callahan reveals, for example, that new research clearly demonstrates that Zika virus can have long-term neurological effects in adults. He discusses how the aerial spraying efforts, so common in South Florida, are actually ineffective and inappropriate for targeting the specific mosquito that transmits the virus.
However, Dr. Callahan does provide us with some very important, and actionable, tools for reducing our risk of contracting Zika, both in terms of what we can do to reduce the prevalence of the Aedes mosquito and also how we can protect ourselves day-to-day.
It’s clear that we have to rewrite the book as it pertains to our understanding of mosquitoes, specifically as it relates to the Aedes mosquito that serves as the carrier of the Zika virus. Unlike what we’re used to, this mosquito lives indoors, and, according to Dr. Callahan, is actually able to watch our eyes to determine when is the best time to inflict its bite.
Dr. Callahan explores the effectiveness of various insect repellents and even touches upon his research dealing with genetically modified male mosquitoes in an attempt to limit the reproduction of the mosquito that carries this threatening virus.
If you enjoyed today’s interview, click here to watch more episodes of the Empowering Neurologist.