Zika: What we know

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Zika virus explainer

Along with Zika, two other major viruses are spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito- dengue and chikungunya. All three diseases present flu like symptoms—fever, aches, pains. According to the World Health Organization, dengue kills about 22,000 people a year. Chikungunya is less deadly, generally killing only those who already have health issues. Zika appears linked to a birth defect called microcephaly--- babies born with unusually small heads. Fifty million people a year contract dengue and in the next year, three to four million are expected to contract Zika. The diseases are spreading quickly in the Americas, where few people have developed immunity to the viruses. A vaccine for dengue has recently been introduced. No cure or vaccine exists for chikungunya or Zika, so fighting these diseases means fighting the mosquitos – killing them with pesticides and eliminating their breeding grounds. CCTV America's Jim Spellman explains.

Pregnant woman

A quick primer on the Zika virus and its impact around the globe.
Click on the links below – and check out CCTV America’s complete coverage as it develops.

What we know about Zika

  • Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.
  • Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
  • Zika infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects – most notably, Microcephaly.
  • Zika can be spread by a man to his female or male partners.
  • At present, there is no vaccine, or medicine, to prevent, or to treat, Zika.


What we don’t know about Zika

  • If there is a safe time during pregnancy to travel to an area with Zika.
  • If you are pregnant and infected, how likely it is that the virus will infect your fetus and if your baby will have birth defects.


Where is Zika occurring?

While Brazil and Central America have been reporting the vast majority of cases, Zika has been affecting people around the world. As summer commences in the western hemisphere, there is a great concern the Aedes species mosquito, which carries the virus, will further migrate north.

Global spread of the Zika virus

Travel notice

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel notice for people traveling to areas where Zika virus is spreading. For a current list of places with Zika outbreaks, see CDC’s Travel Health Notices:



Microcephaly chartWhat is microcephaly?

Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected. Microcephaly can occur when a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy, or has stopped growing after birth, which results in a smaller head size.

Microcephaly has been linked with the following problems:

  • Seizures
  • Developmental delay, such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking)
  • Intellectual disability (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)
  • Problems with movement and balance
  • Feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision problems

These problems can range from mild to severe and are often lifelong. Severe microcephaly can also be life-threatening.


Cases of Zika and microcephaly in Brazil

Cases of Microcephaly in Brazil


CDC’s estimated spread of Zika spreading mosquitoes in the U.S. (2016)

US: Aedes mosquito range


What are the symptoms?

Chart: Symptoms of ZikaMany people with Zika won’t even know they have it. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.

The most common symptoms of Zika are:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint Pain
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)

For more information on Zika:

Story includes information and graphics from the U.S. Center for Disease Control