Zika: the origin and spread of a mosquito-borne virus

Added November 21, 2016

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For over 70 years, as Zika virus spread from Africa and Asia to the Americas, it variably affected humans from a mild illness to neurological and congenital abnormalities.

Zika, a flavivirus that is transmitted by Aedes mosquitos was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda. Since then, the infection spread within Africa and Asia. In 2015, there was an outbreak which started in the Americas and spread across continents and countries that previously did not have the disease. This paper aimed to describe the temporal and geographical distribution of Zika virus infections and associated neurological disorders from 1947 to 1 February 2016. Results showed that human infection happened in 74 countries. It also details the discovery of the virus (1947), its isolation from mosquitos (1948), the first human infection (1952), the initial spread of infection from Asia to a Pacific island (2007), the first known instance of sexual transmission (2008) and reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome (2014) and microcephaly (2015).