Zika virus is most often spread through mosquito bites. Most people infected with Zika do not show any symptoms, though about 1 in 5 experience fever, red eyes, rashes, body aches and headaches. In some rare cases, health researchers have found links to much more serious conditions associated with Zika.
Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition that damages the nervous system, and microcephaly, which severely limits brain development among fetuses and newborns, are both linked to Zika. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers have concluded Zika is the cause of a spike in South American babies born with microcephaly and several other fetal brain defects.
We have known about Zika for decades, but it has only recently started to spread rapidly. There are current Zika outbreaks in more than 20 countries, and recent cases in Florida show the virus is likely being transmitted in the United States. Zika has been detected across Puerto Rico. On Feb. 1, the World Health Organization declared Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The virus has been found in rare cases to spread from mother to child around childbirth and possibly during pregnancy. Recent evidence suggests it also can be spread through sexual contact. Read what CDC Director Tom Frieden said recently about this "urgent" and "unprecedented" health threat (Public Health Newswire).
The April 2016 issue of the American Journal of Public Health features a special focus on the Zika outbreaks. The issue also includes a special review of the history of the Zika virus.
A concern now is a lack of adequate funding to respond to Zika in the United States. Read our news release about lawmakers failing to adequately fund a robust Zika response. As APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, said about Congress in this POLITICO article, "We shouldn’t have to continue to chase diseases that threaten us. They’re not behaving like this is a real threat to the public."
In the USA Today article "Zika could hit people in poverty hardest," Benjamin says something as simple as insect repellent is "a luxury for some people." Benjamin also is quoted in the Associated Press article "State Health Officials Urged to Get Ready Now for Zika in the US" and in the Governing Magazine articles "Congressional Inaction Hinders Public Health Fight Against Zika" and "Simple Steps Should Stop Zika From Spreading in the U.S."
In this Q&A with APHA's Public Health Newswire, the editor of "Control of Communicable Diseases Manual" talks about the new CCDM chapter on Zika and the outlook for controlling the virus. David Heymann calls the Zika outbreak and its link to birth defects "among the most troubling developments of the early 21st Century." And Ben Beard, branch chief for CDC’s Bacterial Diseases Branch in the Division of Vector-Borne Disease at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, shares tips on what we can do to protect ourselves and each other.
Zika Preparedness and Response: A Public Health and Legal Perspective (webinar)
"Zika virus: What's the buzz?" (APHA Storify)