Story behind the story: Zika

A glimpse behind the scenes:

I started covering the growing threat of Zika in October 2015. My coverage on the outbreak over the next year (and beyond)  included breaking news, features and graphics. Notably, I was part of a team at Scientific American that created an exclusive interactive map, tracking the historical and real-time cases of Zika virus in the United States—months before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was sharing that information with the public. That project grew out of a simple inquiry to the CDC.

In January 2016 I asked that agency for data on where Zika cases had occurred so far, but the agency refused to share that data, citing privacy reasons. So I started digging. I contacted all 50 state health departments (and Washington, D.C.) to get their state-level data and, with the help of our incredibly talented graphics team, created our own exclusive tracking and interactive maps at Scientific American. They were a resource for the public and for state health departments to find out where cases had occurred and where patients had recently traveled (and acquired the virus). I uncovered that U.S. cases had actually occurred as far back as 2007, all related to international travel. I also regularly updated those maps for two months, until CDC finally started publicly releasing this type of information (though it still did not share information on where Zika-infected patients had traveled, something that states often did share with Scientific American). A sampling of  that and my other Zika coverage below:

Zika Disease: Another Reason to Hate Mosquitoes, Scientific American, Oct. 2015

What’s Behind Brazil’s Alarming Surge in Babies with Small Heads, SciAm, Jan. 2016

Zika Virus Cases Are Confirmed in the U.S.–What You Need to Know, SciAm, Jan. 2016

“Babymoon” Turns into Zika Nightmare, SciAm, Jan. 2016

Zika Virus Threatens U.S. From Abroad, SciAm, Jan. 2016

What Would It Take to Prove the Zika–Microcephaly Link?, SciAm, Jan. 2016

First Case of U.S. Transmission in Ongoing Zika Outbreak Announced in Texas, SciAm, Feb. 2016

U.S. Eyes Innovative Approaches to Tamp Down Zika, SciAm, Feb. 2016

Why We Shouldn’t Quarantine Travelers Because of Zika, SciAm, March 2016

Sexual Transmission of Zika More Common Than Previously Believed, SciAm, March 2016

World Cup Fans Are Not Responsible for the Zika Explosion in Brazil, SciAm, March 2016

Zika Vaccine Could Solve One Problem While Stoking Another, SciAm, April 2016

CDC Declares Zika–Microcephaly Link Solid, SciAm, April 2016

New Report Says 279 U.S. Pregnant Women Have Zika, SciAm, May 2016

How Zika Spiraled Out of Control Scientific American, May 2016

The U.S. Takes Its First Shot at Zika, SciAm, June 2016

List of Possible Zika Birth Defects Grows Longer, SciAm, June 2016

The Zika Virus Has Changed Little over 70 Years–So Why Is It a Problem Now?, SciAm, July 2016

Zika Mystery Case Raises Questions about New Transmission Route, SciAm, July 2016

What’s Special about the Zika Virus in Singapore?, SciAm, Sept. 2016

Generation Zika, SciAm, Oct. 2016

Geographic Variability in Zika-Related Birth Defects Baffles Scientists, SciAm, Nov. 2016