|Electron micrograph of Zika virus. Virus particles are 40 nm in diameter, with an outer envelope and a dense inner core (source: CDC).|
Group IV ((+)ssRNA)
Zika virus can cause an infectious disease called Zika fever. Zika fever often causes no symptoms, or only mild symptoms. Scientists know that people in Africa and Asia have been getting Zika fever since the 1950s. In 2014, the virus spread eastward across the Pacific Ocean - first to French Polynesia, then to Easter Island. Finally, in 2015, it spread to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. In these places, Zika virus has become a pandemic.
Zika virus is related to West Nile virus and the the viruses that cause dengue fever, yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis. Zika virus causes an illness that is like a mild form of dengue fever. It is treated by rest. As of 2016, there is no medication or vaccine that can prevent the Zika virus.
Pregnant women who get the Zika virus can spread the virus to their fetuses. When they are born, these newborns may be more likely to have microcephaly. In places where the Zika virus lives, people are more likely to have birth defects, neurological problems like Guillain-Barré syndrome, and autoimmune diseases.
In January 2016, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published advice for how to avoid getting Zika fever. They suggested that when traveling to places where Zika virus lives:
- Travelers should use "enhanced precautions," meaning they should be as careful as possible to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes
- Pregnant women should think about not traveling to these areas
Other governments or health agencies soon issued similar travel warnings. Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Jamaica advised women not to get pregnant until scientists know more about the risks of Zika virus to pregnant women.
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- Zika Virus – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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