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Zika Virus: The Emerging Global Health Challenge

Zika virus is a Flavi virus that is transmitted mostly by Aedes mosquitos. It was first isolated from a febrile rhesus monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947. Studies suggested wide spreads of the virus throughout Africa and Asia with over 40% of Nigerian adults and 25% of Nigerian children having antibodies to zika virus. The virus remained virtually unknown for over 70 years as the infections were “harmless”, sporadic, subclinical or asymptomatic in 80% of the cases. The current explosive spread of the virus, and its strong link to congenital microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) in Brazil and other Americas made zika virus “a Public Health Emergency of International Concern” with emerging global health challenge. The challenges include non-availability of antiviral drugs or vaccines to combat the rapid viral spread, threat of worldwide spread of the “Brazilian” strain of the virus after the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, prevention of mosquito bites and zika virus infections especially in women of the reproductive age, and filling the gaps in knowledge about the virus vectors and reservoirs, and the pathogenesis. The objectives of this review are to update knowledge on the origin, spread and virology of zika virus, and the associated neurological complications sequel. We made recommendations for prevention of zika virus infections, and identified areas of future researches.


Innocent Igwebueze Okafor

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