The Zika virus was first discovered in a rhesus monkey in 1947. TheAedesspecies of mosquito transmits the Zika virus as well as dengue and yellow fever. This mosquito is found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Since Brazil reported Zika virus in May, 2015, infections have occurred in at least 20 countries in Central and South America. And now, in 2016, it has pandemic potential with outbreaks in the Americas, Africa, Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia.
It's important to know that 80% of Zika virus infection cause no symptoms at all. The rest have just mild fever, rash and muscle/joint pain. There is no effective treatment. But we are seeing other serious effects like congenital neurologic malformations and microcephaly in Brazil and French Polynesia. Brazil has had 4000 cases of suspected microcephaly in 2015, a 20 fold increase since 2010. Evidence of the virus has been found in the placenta and amniotic fluid of mothers and in the brains of fetuses and newborns. New research shows that the Zika virus affects developing cells in the brain's cortex.
The Zika virus can live in semen longer than blood and we believe it can be sexually transmitted from an infected man to a partner. We don't know if women can transmit it and we don't know if it can be transmitted orally. Pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant are advised not to have sex with partners from endemic areas without protection.
At this time there are no reports of Zika being spread from animals. At this time there are no reports of Zika transmission in the United States and the only Zika infection is from travelers from endemic areas.