The Zika Virus - an Update

A serious outbreak of Zika virus has recently been reported in parts of Central and South America. To date, the most seriously-affected country has been Brazil,where Zika infections have been associated with a number of birth defects in newborn infants. These include microcephaly, in which the head and brain fail to develop to their proper size at birth. As a result, the Zika virus is a special concern for pregnant women.

At the present time, there is no vaccine against the virus and no effective medicine. Therefore, the best advice to travelers as well as people in the affected areas is to use insect repellent and avoid exposure to mosquitoes.

From the Centers for Disease Control

Zika Virus Information

Frequently Asked Questions about Zika

Mosquito Bite Prevention for Travelers

Zika prevention


Biology of the Zika Virus

The Zika virus belongs to the same family of viruses associated with yellow fever and dengue fever. It has a protein surface coating and contains a single RNA strand with the viral genome. It enters cells by binding to receptors on the cell surface, and then releases its RNA strand into the cytoplasm. Once there, the viral RNA codes for a number of proteins that help the virus replicate and produce more copies of its surface proteins. These copies can then exit the cell and infect other cells.

It is spread from person to person by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Zika-infected Regions (from the CDC)

"What to know about Zika Virus"
(from The Atlantic)

"Genetically-Modified Mosquitoes Join the Fight to Stop Zika"
(from NPR)