A Triangle-area company is at the forefront of the effort to gather data in response to the outbreak of the Zika virus.

“The name of the game is time,” says Steve Bennett, who works for SAS Institute as a liaison to government agencies.

Examining and sharing data about the spread and impact of Zika could help speed up the vaccine process.

SAS, which already supplies software to most of the world’s pharmaceutical companies, is using its reach to bring local government health agencies together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, academic researchers and vaccine makers.

Information like lab data from those being screened for Zika and other diseases, clinical trial data and social media trends can play a role in fighting the spread of the outbreak.

“Social media is useful not only in determining what people think and feel about what’s going on,” Bennett said.

Jamie Powers, a SAS consultant to the health and life sciences industries, says work done on Zika can help the world identify and slow the spread of the next big outbreak.

“We’re not talking about solving Zika tomorrow or the next day,” he said. “What we’re talking about is bringing all of the knowledge together into a central place.

“We would have this infrastructure in place. We may not be able to get it all in place by the time Zika is solved, however it would be interesting to have that in place for the next big outbreak which will unfortunately occur,” he said.

So far, more than 80 cases of Zika have been diagnosed in the United States, most of them in people who were bitten by mosquitoes while traveling. According to the CDC, the U.S. could see hundreds or thousands of cases before the disease is under control.