Media Advisory

UF experts on Zika

The following University of Florida experts and communicator are available to speak to news media about a range of Zika-related topics.

Media contacts

Melanie Ross

Chief communications officer for UF Health, 352-273-5812

Wanda English
Associate vice president for communications and public affairs for UF Health, 352-265-0373

Preventing and combatting Zika on campus

William Properzio
Associate professor and director, UF Environmental Health and Safety.
He is available to discuss what measures UF has taken to prevent the spread of Zika., 352-392-1590

Public health concerns

Bernard Okech
Bernard Okech is a research assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Health Professions. Part of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, he works with clinics that see Zika patients in Haiti and can speak on public health concerns., 352-273-5254

John Lednicky
Associate professor in UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions and expert in microbiology and virology. He can discuss how individuals can protect themselves from Zika-carrying mosquitoes and how they can keep mosquitoes away from their homes. He has advocated for more public awareness of Zika., 352-273-9204

Valery E. Madsen Beau De Rochars
Research assistant professor in the department of health services research, management and policy at the University of Florida’s College of Public Health and Health Professions. At the Emerging Pathogens Institute, he is coordinator for underground research activities in the research laboratory located in Gressier, Haiti, to answer questions on public health matters in Haiti., 352-294-5695

Pregnancy concerns

Michael Weiss
Dr. Weiss is an associate professor in the division of neonatology in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics.  He can address the risks of microcephaly and other birth defects., 352-392-4195

How Zika spreads

Phil Lounibos
Distinguished professor, UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory. He can talk about how mosquitos transmit diseases like dengue., 772-778-7200 ext. 146

Sadie Ryan
Assistant professor in UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. An expert on disease ecology from a geography and social sciences perspective. Her research includes development of mathematical models to discover how Zika disease transmission responds to temperature, which is important for predicting future changes in virus transmission under climate control., 352-392-0494

Mosquito experts

Jorge Rey
Professor, UF/IFAS (Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences)
Director of the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory. Can discuss mosquito biology and ecology, mosquito control, wetlands, distribution of mosquito species that are potential disease vectors., 772-778-7200 ext. 136
Limited availability

Barry Alto
Professor, UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory. Can discuss mosquito ecology and disease transmission. Expert on species interactions and abiotic factors (temperature, insecticide) affecting the larval stage. Research emphasis on furthering our understanding of mosquito ecology and disease transmission., 772-778-7200 ext. 153

Roxanne Connelly
Professor, UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory is an entomologist who does research on biology, taxonomy, identifying mosquitoes, protection from mosquito-borne disease., 772-778-7200

Chelsea Smartt
Associate professor, UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory. Traveled to Brazil to study the ability of two mosquito species to transmit the Zika virus., 772-778-7200, ext. 156

Global concerns

Derek Cummings
Biology professor and researcher at the Emerging Pathogens Institute, he – along with Sadie Ryan – received a RAPID award from the National Science Foundation in May to study the prevalence of the Zika virus and its potential impact on vulnerable populations. Cummings is developing estimates detailing the risk the virus poses around the globe., 352-273-6555

Vaccine specialists

Ira Longini
Professor and co-director, Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases (CSQUID) Emerging Pathogens Institute. A biostatistician/disease modeler who also specializes in vaccines., 352-294-1938
Limited availability

Origins and spread of Zika

J. Glenn Morris
Professor of medicine and director of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, draws on more than 30 years in public health and pathogen-related fields to focus on anticipating, understanding and controlling the emergence of disease-causing microorganisms. Recent research uncovered the existence of Zika virus in Haiti several months before the first Zika cases were identified in Brazil., 352-273-7526

Marco Salemi
Associate professor, UF College of Medicine, studies the molecular evolution of pathogenic viruses. Along with Dr. J. Glenn Morris, Salemi observed that Zika virus was present in Haiti as early as mid-2013, raising questions about the origin of the virus in the Caribbean and subsequent patterns of circulation of the virus within the Americas., 352-294-5593

Amy Vittor
An assistant professor and mosquito-borne virus expert at the Emerging Pathogens Institute who studies the interface between vector-borne diseases and land-use. Dr. Vittor wrote an article for The Conversation discussing the history of the Zika virus and how it may have arrived in Brazil., 352-294-5481

Epidemics and variables

Walter Tabachnick
UF/IFAS professor in the department of entomology and nematology. An evolutionary biologist whose research on Aedes aeqypti, the mosquito that carries and transmits the Zika virus, began when he was a postdoctoral fellow. Collaborating with members of the Yale Arbovirus Research Unit, he studied the genetic and environmental factors that control vector insects’ ability to become infected and transmit vector-borne pathogens. He can discuss the fact that epidemics such as Zika are never the result of a single variable, instead involving interactions among genes, ecology, climate and human behavior., 772-778-7200, ext. 190 


Lori Pennington-Gray
A professor in the department of tourism, recreation & sport management and Director of the UF Tourism Crisis Management Initiative, Pennington-Gray has been involved in numerous research projects in the State of Florida and other areas in the United States. A report of her recent study on Zika’s impact can be found here. She also served as a UF spokesperson on how tragedies like the Orlando nightclub mass shooting affect tourism., 352-294-1657