The Zika Virus Takes a Frightening Turn - and Raises Many Questions
- by Jason Beaubien/ Goats and Soda: Stories of Life in a Changing World/ National Public Radio/ npr.org
"Something new — and quite frightening — appears to be happening with the Zika virus.
For decades Zika was a virus that turned up in monkeys and occasionally in humans in Africa and Southeast Asia. Its symptoms were mild and the number of confirmed human cases was low.
The first big outbreak was on the island of Yap in Micronesia. Three quarters of the island's population were infected — about 5,000 people. But few of them reported any symptoms.
Things began to change last year. The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, turned up in Brazil. There have been at least half a million cases there and the virus has appeared in many other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Why is this virus spreading so rapidly?
"We do still know so little about this virus and the harm that it can cause," says Albert Ko, an epidemiologist from Yale who has been working with the Brazilian Ministry of Health to investigate the Zika outbreak. "This is really a relatively new pathogen." Indeed, the virus was first identified in 1947 in a rhesus monkey in Uganda's Zika forest (which gave the disease its name)..."
A researcher holds a container with female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. This species transmits the Zika virus.