Now is the time for the Zika virus

El turno ahora es para el virus Zika

In April 1947 it was discovered through an experimental animal model a jungle fever. During the experiment, monkeys (macaques) were placed in cages and left exposed in the Zika forest (Uganda); one of the monkeys became ill and died. They filtered postmortem monkey tissues were inoculated into mouse brain and from there, a virus called Zika (ZIKV) was cultured. In 1948 ZIKV was also isolated from mosquitoes Aedes africanus captured in the Zika forest. In 1956 ZIKV transmission in mosquitoes Ae. aegypti was found, as well as a monkey. Between 1968 and 1975, ZIKV was subsequently isolated from humans (Nigeria); 40% of those patients analized by PRNT shown antibodies.

The ZIKV is a flavivirus and the same family of viruses of dengue, yellow fever and West Nile. The Zika is a RNA virus closely related to the Spondweni, Ilheus, Rocio and St. Louis encephalitis viruses. Furthermore, immunological studies suggest that ZIKV blocking yellow fever virus viremia in monkeys (1-3).

In 2007 Yap, one of the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean (Polynesia), the ZIKV caused an outbreak that affected more than 20,000 people. The clinical manifestations are similar to patients with dengue and chikungunya. The incubation period is 3-6 days and macular or papular rash, fever, arthritis or arthralgia, non-purulent conjunctivitis, myalgia and headache are frequent. Fever is self-limited, while the rash is widespread and can reach up to 14 days. The ZIKV apparently does not trigger haemorrhagic disorders such as dengue and chikungunya. Hospitalization is generally not required and no mortality has been reported yet. There is also no vaccine for this virus and treatment is symptomatic. The outbreak on the island of Yap was the first reported outside Africa and Asia and from there jumped to Europe and the Americas (2). Moreover, an important and peculiar epidemiological aspect of ZIKV is that it also can be transmitted through sexual contact (3).

In February 2015, in Isla de Pascua (Chile), was found the first indigenous case of the Americas. In May 2015, Pan American Health Organization confirmed in Brazil the first 16 cases of infections ZIKV. On June 4, 2015 in Dominican Republic it was presented the first case of ZIKV (4). This geographical proximity reminds us of chikungunya entry to Colombia in July 2014, and allow us to predict the arrival to Colombia of ZIKV will be imminent.

The scenario that currently exists in Polynesia where co-circulate, dengue, chikungunya and ZIKV, it will be lived in Colombia very soon. This prediction is based on the geo-climatic, vector and susceptibility of the population conditions. But perhaps, from the clinical and public health point of view, most disturbing it is that the three viruses cause similar clinical symptoms and that the country would not have sufficient resources to make a differential diagnosis of the virus (1-3).

The ZIKV has spread from the Pacific Ocean and is no longer a threat it is a reality in the Americas. Soon, we will have like chikungunya, local and exponential transmission in Aedes mosquitoes, which are perfectly adapted to our enviroment to aerotransport arboviruses. Climate change and global warming are affecting both the natural cycle of the virus as their vectors, a situation that favors the emergence and spread of diseases. With the arrival of ZIKV, the Colombian government must develop a contingency measures to mitigate the morbidity, in order to decrease cases of sickness absence due to illness caused by ZIKV. If the ministeries of health, environment and education of Colombian, do not take mesaures to preserve the little that we have, we will soon have new and unexpected diseases that it will affect so much the population.


Salim Mattar V. Ph.D.

Marco González T. M.Sc.


1. Hayes E. Zika Virus Outside Africa. Emerg Infect Dis 2009; 15(9):1347-1360.

2. Roth A, Mercier A, Lepers C, Hoy D, Duituturaga S, Benyon E, Guillaumot L, Souarès Y. Concurrent outbreaks of dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus infections–an unprecedented epidemic wave of mosquito-borne viruses in the Pacific 2012–2014. Euro Surveill. 2014; 19(41):pii=20929. Available online: http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20929

3. Dupont-Rouzeyrol M, O’Connor O, Calvez E, Daurès M, John M, Grangeon JP, Gourinat AC. Co-infection with Zika and dengue viruses in 2 patients, New Caledonia, 2014. Emerg Infect Dis 2015; 21(2):381-2. doi: htt://10.3201/eid2102.141553.

4. Musso D, Roche C, Robin E, Nhan T, Teissier A, Cao-Lormeau VA. Potential Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus. Emerg Infect Dis 2015; 21:359-361).