Epidemiology of Zika

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Purpose of review

Zika virus (ZIKV) is the latest ’emerging virus’ that has affected the Americas. First identified in the mid-20th century in Uganda, it was described as a vector arthropod-borne virus (arbovirus) and subsequently found capable of producing illness in humans. The illness was not different from other flavivirus infections and caused a relatively mild disease characterized by low-grade fever, nonspecific exanthem, nonpurulent conjunctivitis, and mild to moderate arthralgia. It was capable of producing infections described as sporadic isolated cases; in 2007, it was confirmed as the pathogen causing the first known ZIKV epidemic subsequently associated with congenital neonatal microcephaly in many countries in the Americas.

Recent findings

It rapidly spread to other countries in the Americas and, as of September 2016, it has been detected in 46 countries and territories. Different from other flavivirus infections, ZIKV has proven to be related to more serious complications. These include Guillain–Barré syndrome and neonatal congenital malformations, which includes microcephaly and neurologic damage to the developing fetus, particularly if the maternal infection occurs early in pregnancy. These two complications are a cause of great concern.


It is pivotal to conduct epidemiological laboratory-based surveillance and studies on the virus’ inherent characteristics to understand the pathophysiology of this infection and develop adequate strategies to mitigate this new threat.

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