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So, where did Zika virus come from?

mosquito biting a person outside of lake worth home

There are many infectious diseases that mosquitoes are able to incubate and transmit to humans. Some of them are even deadly. But, none have captured national attention like the Zika virus. Where did Zika come from--and why is it such a scary virus?

While it may seem like death would be the worst outcome from contracting a mosquito-borne virus, there are things that are worse than death. Living with a child that has microcephaly is definitely one of them. This is a congenital birth defect that can tragically affect the entire course of a child's life and put an untold burden on a mother and a family. Even though not all mosquitoes can carry the Zika virus, not all mosquito capable of carrying it actually have it, and not every expectant mother infected with Zika will have a baby born with microcephaly, this is still a virus that has people quite worried.

As the name implies, this virus didn't start here in the United States. It was first discovered in the Zika forest of Uganda during a routine surveillance for yellow fever done by the Yellow Fever Research Institute. Here is what the timeline looks like:

1947: The Yellow Fever Research Institute isolates the Zika virus from a captive rhesus monkey collected from the forest, which is part of a protected area owned by the research institute.

1948: The Zika virus is extracted from an Aedes africanus mosquito captured in a tree platform located in the Zika forest.

1952: The first human cases of Zika virus are cataloged by researchers. These cases are found in Uganda and in the United Republic of Tanzania.

1958: Researchers catalog two more strains of the Zika virus. Both are found in the Aedes mosquitoes, and both are found in the Zika forest of Uganda.

1964: Studies conducted by David Simpson prove a link between Zika virus and human disease when the researcher falls ill from the virus and carefully documents the infection. It is concluded that this is a mild febrile illness with a short duration and a generalized maculopapular rash.

1965 - 2000: Zika spreads to several countries but there are no severe outbreaks of the disease, and the virus is commonly misdiagnosed as chikungunya or dengue. For this reason, less than 20 human cases are confirmed during this period.

2007: A large outbreak of Zika is reported in the Caroline Islands, a group of islands that are part of the Federated States of Micronesia. The cause of the outbreak is linked to air travel to the islands.

2013: A link between the Zika virus and several medically important human illnesses is made as this virus spreads to several Pacific islands, including Easter Island, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and the Cook Islands. Researchers connect Zika virus to microcephaly, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and autoimmune issues.

February 2015: Cases of a mysterious rashy illness spreads across Northeastern Brazil, and is not recognized as, or tested as, Zika virus. Nearly 7,000 cases are documented. Almost all cases are considered mild.

May 2015: The rashy illness spreading through Brazil is confirmed to be Zika by the National Reference Laboratory. The World Health Organizations puts out an alert.

July 2015: Researchers in Brazil begin to see a connection between Zika and neurological issues. 49 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome are reported, but scientists are unable to make a clear link between them and the Zika outbreak.

October 2015: Colombia becomes the second country in the Americas to have a Zika outbreak, with over 156 cases reported. This is accompanied by a surge in microcephaly in newborn babies. Later in the month, Zika is reported in Mexico, Paraguay, Venezuela, and Guatemala.

December 2015: Reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil near 3,000.

January 2016: Cases climb to 2,100 pregnant women in Colombia and Zika begins to appear in Puerto Rico. This prompts the CDC to begin drafting travel guidelines and warnings for pregnant women in the United States.

February 2016: In just one year from its introduction to the Americas, reports of travel-related cases of Zika begin to pop up in Texas. This leads to evidence that supports the theory that Zika virus can be sexually transmitted.

April 2016: The World Health Organization finds conclusive evidence that proves a link between Zika virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

July 2016: The first documents of locally-transmitted Zika virus are found in Florida.

Health organizations continue to monitor the spread of this virus and its implications on human health--and the experts here at Nozzle Nolen continue to do what we've been doing for years, providing mosquito reduction services for municipalities, businesses, and homeowners, to keep our state safe.

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