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10 Signs and Symptoms of the Zika Virus

Kimberly Love

Over the last year or so, it would have been just about impossible for one to pick up a newspaper or turn on the news and not hear something about the Zika virus. From being grounds for almost canceling the Olympics to fears of a worldwide pandemic, the Zika virus certainly was a top news story this past year; however, some might be surprised to know that the history of this particular infection goes much further back than the last 12 months.

Back in 1947, and in a similar fashion to many other viruses and diseases, scientists identified a new virus in a rhesus monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda; and if it wasn’t obvious, so comes the name Zika. It was the following year and after some research that the virus itself was then recovered from the mosquito Aedes africanus, also caught in the Zika forest. Now up until this point, Zika seemed like a rather contained incident. However, in four short years, the world would know different.

It was in 1952 that the first human cases of Zika are detected in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. However, it wasn’t until 1964 that a researcher in Uganda is infected with Zika while working on the virus confirming that Zika virus causes human disease. He reports the illness as “mild.” Needless to say, that opinion would change.

Between the 1960s and the 1980s, human cases are confirmed through blood tests. No deaths or hospitalizations are reported, but studies consistently show widespread human exposure to the virus. The disease is mapped as it moves from Uganda to western Africa and Asia in the first half of the 20th century and concerns of an outbreak become more and more real.

To get more specific, it was between 1969 and 1983 that the Zika virus is detected in mosquitoes found in equatorial Asia, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan. However, it wouldn’t be for another 30 years that the full breadth of this virus would be understood.

In 2007, the first large Zika outbreak in humans in the Pacific Island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia. Prior to this, no outbreaks and only 14 cases of human Zika virus disease had been documented anywhere in the world. An estimated 73% of Yap residents are infected with Zika virus.

The Yap Island outbreak also suggests a lack of immunity in the island’s population. Regular exposure to infection by populations in Africa and Asia may have prevented the large outbreaks seen on Pacific Islands and in the Americas. Under-reporting, due to the clinical similarities of (mild) illness symptoms associated with Zika, dengue, and chikungunya infections might also account for previous Zika outbreaks being overlooked. Sadly, it wasn’t until the following year that Zika would first be felt on North American soil.

2008 was the year when a US scientist conducting fieldwork in Senegal falls ill with Zika infection. On his return home to Colorado he infects his wife in what is the first documented case of sexual transmission of a disease usually transmitted by insects. 4 years later, in 2012, researchers identified 2 distinct lineages of the virus; African and Asian.

Now in more recent recollection, we have Brazil who notifies them of an illness characterized by skin rash in northeastern states. From February 2015 to 29 April 2015, nearly 7000 mild cases are reported, with no reported deaths. Of 425 blood samples taken for differential diagnosis, 13% are positive for dengue. Tests for chikungunya, measles, rubella, parvovirus B19, and enterovirus are negative. Zika was not suspected at this stage, and no tests for Zika were carried out.

It was from this point where the virus spread to the Maldives where there were reports that a Finnish national who worked in the country became ill upon his return to Finland, where he tested positive, by PCR, for Zika infection. Guyana, Ecuador, Barbados, The Plurinational State of Bolivia, Haiti, Saint Martin, the Dominican Republic, St.Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands), Nicaragua, Curacao, Jamaica all report lab confirmed cases of locally acquired Zika infection. Suddenly, the world was listening.

So knowing as we do that Zika is truly a real concern, it does beg the question as to what signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for. Thankfully, we did the legwork and are able to provide you with the 10 most common signs that the Zika virus has made its way into your own backyard.

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