Zika virus: a new pandemic threat
Zika virus (ZIKV) is an emerging arbovirus of the Flaviviridae family and is related to dengue, Chikungunya, West Nile, yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis viruses. ZIKV was first discovered in Uganda in 1947. Different species of mosquito from the Aedes genus, mainly A. aegypti and A. albopictus are the vectors responsible for ZIKV infection in humans. It is also reported that ZIKV is transmitted congenitally, sexually, and through blood donation. Until recently, ZIKV outbreaks were sporadic and self-limiting. The first large epidemic was reported from Yap Island in 2007 followed by an outbreak of Zika fever in French Polynesia in 2013. Brazil is the epicenter of the current ZIKV epidemic which is rapidly spreading across the Americas. ZIKV infection remained relatively less studied in view of its low case numbers, and low clinical impact relative to other arboviruses. However, all this is set to change with its rapid spread in the Western hemisphere and suspected complications particularly microcephaly in newborn babies with ZIKV infected mothers. ZIKV is expected to substantially add to both short-term and long-term economic burden of the effected countries. Due to the large number of people travelling across the borders and some reported cases of transmission of ZIKV via contaminated blood, screening and identification of asymptomatic infected individuals are important.
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