Sherif R. Zaki, epidemiologist, dies at 65

Written by Hadeel Al Shalchi, CNN Dr. Sherif R. Zaki, a distinguished scientist and renowned infectious disease detective, died on December 18 at his home in Oakland, California. He was 65. Zaki was an…

Sherif R. Zaki, epidemiologist, dies at 65

Written by Hadeel Al Shalchi, CNN

Dr. Sherif R. Zaki, a distinguished scientist and renowned infectious disease detective, died on December 18 at his home in Oakland, California. He was 65.

Zaki was an essential part of the biodefense community throughout his distinguished career, having been a founder and scientific director of the National Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases Laboratory at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Zaki was also co-founder and director of the Institute for Health Security at the University of Washington, where he founded the Mosquito Mapping Project (MMP) — which mapped local mosquito populations across the United States and the world. He was credited with helping to inspire the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Urban Mapping Initiative and was in turn invited to start the EPA’s Office of Long Range Planning (ALRP). Zaki retired from his position at ALRP in 2014.

Dr. Sherif R. Zaki in Los Angeles in 2014 Credit: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

In addition to developing sophisticated mapping software and exercises to help combat epidemics, Zaki was focused on an early search for infectious disease threats — the kind of work that was required to track Ebola outbreaks in Africa.

In 1993, Zaki visited high-risk areas in a caravan of 40 cars equipped with 65 tracking sensors and detectors, which he used to assess the health situation in the region. His findings were important for subsequent efforts at tracking and containing the Ebola outbreak, which led to the deaths of thousands of people, many of whom were health care workers.

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