Zika Virus Infection


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a) Electron micrograph of brown circles in a purple background. B) drawing of infant with smaller head than average; this is especially apparent in the back of the cranial vault.
(a) This colorized electron micrograph shows Zika virus particles (red). (b) Women infected by the Zika virus during pregnancy may give birth to children with microcephaly, a deformity characterized by an abnormally small head and brain. (credit a, b: modifications of work by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

OpenStax Microbiology

Zika virus infection is an emerging arboviral disease associated with human illness in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South and Central America; however, its range is expanding as a result of the widespread range of its mosquito vector. The first cases originating in the United States were reported in 2016.The Zika virus was initially described in 1947 from monkeys in the Zika Forest of Uganda through a network that monitored yellow fever. It was not considered a serious human pathogen until the first large-scale outbreaks occurred in Micronesia in 2007; however, the virus has gained notoriety over the past decade, as it has emerged as a cause of symptoms similar to other arboviral infections that include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache. Mosquitoes of the Aedes genus are the primary vectors, although the virus can also be transmitted sexually, from mother to baby during pregnancy, or through a blood transfusion.

Most Zika virus infections result in mild symptoms such as fever, a slight rash, or conjunctivitis. However, infections in pregnant women can adversely affect the developing fetus. Reports in 2015 indicate fetal infections can result in brain damage, including a serious birth defect called microcephaly, in which the infant is born with an abnormally small head.

Diagnosis of Zika is primarily based on clinical symptoms. However, the FDA recently authorized the use of a Zika virus RNA assay, Trioplex RT-PCR, and Zika MAC-ELISA to test patient blood and urine to confirm Zika virus disease. There are currently no antiviral treatments or vaccines for Zika virus, and treatment is limited to supportive care.


Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology