The Zika virus was first discovered in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947. The virus is spread primarily through mosquitos but can be transmitted sexually, through blood, and during childbirth. People infected with the virus will show mild symptoms, including fever and muscle and joint pain, lasting 2-7 days. Unfortunately, there are currently no vaccines against the virus.
The Zika virus gained worldwide attention a couple of years ago due to its association with microcephaly, a disorder causing smaller than normal brain and head size in babies born to infected mothers in Brazil in 2015. Microcephaly is thought to be caused by mutations in developmental genes, and it’s possible that the Zika virus may lead to similar mutations.
Microcephaly is a lifelong condition and occurs when the baby’s brain does not develop properly in the womb or stops growing after birth. The problems associated with microcephaly range from mild to severe, including intellectual disability, seizures, and developmental delay.
Learn more about Zika risk and prevention from the WHO & CDC, and microcephaly here.