With all of the coverage in the news about the Zika virus, it’s understandable that Philadelphians may have questions about this disease. The Department of Public Health is working hard to identify travelers with this infection, prevent emergence and spread of the disease in Philadelphia, and keep residents informed about Zika.
Zika is a disease caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The illness is usually mild, but it can have serious consequences in pregnant women. Zika infections during pregnancy have been linked to birth defects, including microcephaly (small brain and skull) in newborns.
Zika was first identified in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda, and traditionally has been found in Africa and Southeast Asia. Human cases of Zika were first detected in 1952. Since then, outbreaks of Zika have been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern because the virus began to appear in numerous countries and regions in the western hemisphere. By that time, Zika was appearing in Mexico and most of the countries in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.