Zika virus disease (Zika) is caused by an emerging mosquito-borne virus that has no specific medical treatment or vaccine. The virus is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito in the Aedes genus, the same mosquito responsible for transmitting yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya viruses.
The symptoms of the illness are generally mild, but Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects including microcephaly. In addition, infection may also be linked to neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Zika virus was first isolated in 1947 from a rhesus monkey in Uganda’s Zika forest, but the first human cases of Zika were not detected until 1952. In 2007, a large epidemic of Zika virus was reported in Yap Island and Guam, Micronesia. In 2013 and 2014 multiple epidemics were reported in several Pacific Islands. By May 2015, the Zika virus was reported in Brazil as well as several countries of South and Central America and the Caribbean. Only eight months later, Brazil totaled nearly 30,000 reported cases of infection. The virus is now widespread in Brazil, and is continuing to spread throughout the Americas as well as the Oceania and Pacific Islands.
In January 2016, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued travel guidance on affected countries, including the use of enhanced precautions, and guidelines for pregnant women including considering postponing travel. As of late July 2016, the first cases of mosquito transmitted Zika were found in Southern Florida, a few blocks north of downtown Miami. As a result of these locally transmitted cases, the CDC has issued additional guidance for people living in and traveling to the affected areas near Miami.