What is the Zika virus?

Unknown until recently by the vast majority of the population, the Zika virus is unfortunately hitting the headlines in 2016. Although the symptoms are not severe, this emerging virus could be responsible (on the face of it at least) for more than 6,000 new cases of microcephaly in Brazil alone.

The virus, which is transmitted through a mosquito bite, is already present in over 20 countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific.

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the alert level is extremely high.

How is the virus spread?


Mosquito Aedes Aegypti


High adaptation and survival in adverse conditions

Usually bites at dawn and dusk

Can transmit dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya and zika

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main culprit in the transmission of the virus in humans, was responsible for major dengue and yellow fever epidemics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Even though the tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is its close relative and could theoretically transmit the virus, it would need to bite many infected people to spread the virus to other healthy individuals, which means there is no risk factor.

Can it be sexually transmitted?

Even though the WHO has warned that there is no conclusive evidence that the virus can be sexually transmitted, scientists were able to isolate the Zika virus in the semen of a patient who had been tested in Tahiti in December 2013.

In addition, the first case of zika infection through sexual transmission recently appeared in a resident of Dallas (United States) who had had sex with a person who was infected by a mosquito bite while visiting another country. In view of this case, WHO recommends using condoms, along with sexual abstinence, as the only effective methods to curb the spread of the disease.

In any case, researchers are not yet sure how long the virus can remain active in the semen or if it can be found in women’s vaginal fluid, so although there is no clear evidence to suggest that sexual relations are a risk factor for the disease, it is essential to take precautions.

What are the symptoms of the Zika virus?



Fever and malaise



Headache and possible abdominal pain



Red eyes and itchiness



Flat red area of skin covered in small bumps

Symptoms of the Zika virus are usually mild and very similar to other infections such as dengue. In fact, most people who get infected by the virus in the future never even know they had it since only 1 in 5 people develop symptoms of the disease..

With an incubation period of two to 12 days after the mosquito bite, the symptoms usually subside after a week. The disease rarely causes complications, has a low hospitalization rate and is not associated with any fatalities

Detection and treatment

At present, there is no treatment or vaccine against the Zika virus.

It can only be detected by a CRP (C-reactive protein) analysis to check for inflammation in the body, since most cases are asymptomatic. In cases where some of the symptoms are visible, they can easily be mistaken for chikungunya or dengue, which, as we have seen, are diseases that are also transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the same areas where the Zika virus is transmitted.

How is it detected?

PCR analysis of the genetic matter in blood

Detection of antibodies in blood

What is the best way to treat it?


Drink plenty of water

Take pain relievers (avoid anti-inflammatories)

What can we do to avoid the disease?

To prevent the disease from spreading, in addition to avoiding areas known for having a high mosquito population, just follow some simple advice:

Use repellents

Use them constantly for greater efficiency and protection

The most effective repellents contain icaridin, IR3535 and DEET

Dress in light clothing

In addition to light clothing, wear long sleeves and long pants

Dark colors trap the body’s carbon dioxide (which attracts mosquitoes)

Physical barriers

The use of insect screens on doors and windows is an essential form of protection

In the case of sexual relations, use condoms

Which countries are at high risk?

The latest reports indicate that more than 20 territories are affected by the Zika virus, with widespread outbreaks reported in Brazil and Colombia. To date, the following countries have had confirmed cases and pose a risk:

image/svg+xml Blank World Map
  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • El Salvador
  • Panama
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Bolivia
  • Paraguay
  • Brazil
  • Suriname
  • Guyana
  • French Guiana
  • Venezuela
  • Haiti
  • Puerto Rico
  • St. Martin
  • Dominican Republic
  • Martinique
  • Barbados
  • Honduras

In addition, cases have been detected in Europe and the United States, particularly in:

  • Spain
  • Denmark
  • United Kingdom
  • Austria
  • Portugal
  • United States

Microcephaly and risk during pregnancy

The number of newborn babies with microcephaly has multiplied by 20 since May 2015. Therefore, the idea that there is a direct relationship between contracting the Zika virus during the first few months of pregnancy and a higher rate of microcephaly is more than reasonable. Although the hypothesis has not been proven and the WHO has not yet officially accepted this theory, the relationship between the Zika virus and microcephaly became even more plausible when the virus genome was detected in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women who had been in contact with the Zika virus.

It is a neurological disorder characterized by babies being born with smaller than normal heads, which stops the brain from developing properly. Consequently, it is associated with mental retardation (and other symptoms such as hyperactivity or seizures).

Recent outbreaks of the Zika virus

Since the first known case of the virus in 1947, when it was isolated from a rhesus monkey in the Zika forest (Uganda), there have been a total of 3 outbreaks of the Zika virus. Could this year’s outbreak be the most important one to date?

First case of the Zika virus (isolated from a rhesus monkey).

First case detected in humans.

First outbreak on the island of Yap (Micronesia).

Outbreak in French Polynesia (more than 10,000 cases were identified, 70 of them critical).

Outbreak in northeast Brazil, Colombia and Cape Verde.

WHO announces that the cases of microcephaly that have appeared in Brazil constitute a health emergency (but not the Zika virus itself, since the relationship between the two has not yet been proven).

What is the current situation and where could it go from here?

WHO has declared an extremely high-level alert

The current situation of the Zika virus and its rapid spread has led WHO to declare an extremely high-level alert.. What began as a mild threat to the population has become a significant one, and therefore, it is important that all countries take the necessary actions (as they are doing) to prevent the epidemic from becoming a pandemic.

Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Moreover, the current outbreak of the virus has an enemy that could complicate things a bit more. Since the Brazil Olympics are getting closer, it is feared that the large influx of people and visitors to the country in August 2016 will spread the Zika virus around the world rapidly. Because some studies make the connection between the Zika virus and microcephaly in infants, the country’s authorities recommend that pregnant women not travel to the Rio 2016 Olympics to avoid possible complications during pregnancy and risks to the fetus.


However, as mentioned above, the symptoms of the Zika virus would be mild for all women who are not pregnant and, of course, for men as well (so there is no need to trigger a social alarm beyond simply taking preventative measures).


Finally, we would like to remind you of a couple of points that will help you stay optimistic even if a hypothetical outbreak occurred on a global scale:


Only 1 in 5 people develop symptoms of the disease


Symptoms are mild and can be treated simply with rest and analgesics