The world is watching. I know I will be. My family and I love watching the Olympics to see the amazing display of athleticism at the highest level. The other day, as we were watching some of the pre-qualifiers, my wife turned and asked me about the Zika virus. Most microbiology and virology textbooks are written to address the more common diseases and focus less on the rest. Because Zika falls into a category that little is known about, we have lots of questions.
What Is Zika Virus?
Zika virus is an infectious disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes.1 Mosquitoes are known to carry a wide variety of diseases, including West Nile Virus, yellow fever, malaria, and Chikungunya (pronunciation: \chik-en-gun-ye). Most of these diseases are not significant health concerns for the majority of Americans, but they are a major concern for those traveling around the world. Each year, there are reports of these other diseases, but the prevalence of Zika is sporadic.
Where Is Zika Virus?
No one knows the origin of the Zika virus. Like other viruses, it probably became pathogenic as a result of the Fall. Zika was first identified in 1947 from a Rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest (Uganda). The first report of Zika in humans was just five years later. Several reports of Zika occurred for the next two decades, but then it seemed to disappear entirely. All fourteen cases remained on the continent of Africa during that time.5 However, the first major outbreak occurred in 2007 (nearly forty years later) in Micronesia.3 It appeared that the virus had begun to spread across Africa and into Asia. Six years later, there was another outbreak with even more cases. The 2013 outbreak, however, was in Europe with approximately 10,000 confirmed cases. Since 2013, there have been annual outbreaks of Zika located across all continents except Antarctica.