Tracking the Zika virus – the 70-year saga

By Valerie Lapointe

The CDC is investigating a connection between the Zika virus and Guillain-Barre, a condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves eventually resulting in complete paralysis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This latest development comes on the heels of WHO global health alert on the virus  and an unprecedented travel alert  from the CDC telling American women of childbearing age to avoid traveling to the 40 countries where the Zika virus is carried by mosquitoes.  This warning  stems from the suspected link between Zika and microcephaly, a congenital condition characterized by an abnormally small head signifying incomplete brain development.

These conditions are severe and troubling. Yet, until recently Zika had only been observed as a relatively mild  condition, often misdiagnosed for dengue fever due to the similarities in symptoms such as general aches and pains, flu-like symptoms, and a full body rash. Named for the Zika forest in Uganda, where it was first isolated and observed in 1948, this is the first multi-national outbreak of Zika.


Timeline Sources

APRIL 2011- Science Magazine article “Sex After a Field Trip Yields Scientific First”
JANUARY 2014- Oxford University Press “Mosquitoes of Zika Forest, Uganda
OCTOBER 2014- Eurosurveillance article “Chikungunya and Zika virus”
MAY 2015- European Center for Disease Prevention and Control Rapid Risk Assessment
MAY 2015 – WHO/Pan American Health Organization –Epidemiological Alert : Zika virus infection
DECEMBER 2015- Washington Post article “Brazil declares emergency after 2,400 babies are born with brain damage, possibly due to mosquito-borne virus”
FEBRUARY 2016- CDC Report on fetal complications potentially linked to Zika
FEBRUARY 2016- WHO Report “Neurological Symptoms and Congenital Anomalies
FEBRUARY 2016-  Chicago Tribune  article “Zika has been linked to birth defects. Now it may be causing paralysis”
FEBRUARY 2016- NPR article  “What We Know So Far About Sexual Transmission Of Zika Virus”
FEBRUARY 2016- New York Times article “Zika Infection Transmitted by Sex Reported in Texas”

Photo at top: An aedes africanus mosquito, the first known mosquito species to carry the Zika virus.(