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Md. Scientist Creates Task Force To Find Vaccine For Zika Virus

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore could soon be ground zero in the battle against the Zika virus. A special task force to study the virus and develop a vaccine is being formed right here.

Marcus Washington with more on the role Maryland will play in this global health emergency.

The Zika virus has created an international public emergency, finding its way to the U.S., with reported cases in Maryland, D.C., Delaware and Virginia.

The Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease, is known to cause devastating birth defects, where babies are born with abnormally small heads and brains.

"We are kind of looking forward to going on a tropical cruise, but again, it's nothing worth putting the baby at risk at all," said expectant mother Min Kim.

"It's hard to find--globally--real experts on Zika virus; relatively newly studied by most people," said Dr. Robert Gallo, Global Virus Network.

Dr. Gallo, who co-discovered HIV as the cause of AIDS and the blood test to detect the disease in the early '80s, formed the Global Virus Network (GVN) nearly five years ago, with its central headquarters in Baltimore.

The GVN recently created a Zika task force, with experts on the virus and its effects from around the world.

Washington: "So when we're looking at the Zika virus--a lot of people are talking about it, with the Olympics coming--what are you hoping the task force can accomplish?"

Gallo: "Truth. That we give the information as best you can give it. It was said by some leadership not so long ago that this would not be a problem here in America or a serious problem epidemic-wise because of mosquitoes. Well, that was premature."

It's the beginning of solving a big problem with the fight being led in our own backyard.

"If this thing goes right, someday--maybe when I'm not here--this state is going to very proud that this is located here," said Dr. Gallo.

The World Health Organization says as many as 4-million people could contract the Zika virus by the end of the year.

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