Zika Infections Escalating in 2023
During the recent pandemic, a seldom discussed mosquito-borne virus was confirmed in 89 countries globally. Although incidence levels of the Zika virus remained low, significant increases have been observed in some countries.
Outbreaks of Zika in the region of the Americas have highlighted the significant public impact of this severe virus.
Zika infections can cause congenital microcephaly and neurodevelopmental disorders after infection in pregnancy.
An April 2023 study shows that the most severe manifestation observed in 1.5% of infected pregnant women is microcephaly.
Furthermore, even though some children are born with an average head circumference, they may develop postnatal microcephaly.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported on September 1, 2023, that about 28,000 Zika cases have been confirmed this year.
Since its first detection in Brazil in March 2015, local transmission of Zika has been confirmed in all countries and territories of the Americas, except continental Chile, Uruguay, and Canada.
Ten countries account for 89% of Zika cases recorded between 2014 and 2023, with Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela leading the expanding list.
As of August 2023, Brazil has reported over 26,000 Zika cases.
In the United States, Puerto Rico has reported 32 Zika cases this year.
"It is essential to link surveillance for acute Zika infections and the manifestation of other neurological syndromes such as Guillain-Barre," Thais dos Santos, Advisor on Surveillance and Control of Arboviral Neglected Diseases at PAHO, said in a press release.
"If we optimize this approach, we will be better prepared to understand the disease and take preventive measures fully," she added.
"Maintaining adequate monitoring is crucial to prevent future epidemics."
"This will enable the timely detection of Zika and, in turn, the implementation of relevant and effective control measures," the PAHO expert said.
Unlike most diseases, no U.S. FDA-approved Zika vaccines prevent the spread or limit its impact on people.
"Most infections with this (Zika) virus are asymptomatic or mild, making their detection by healthcare systems quite challenging," commented María Van Kerkhove, Head of the Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses Unit at the World Health Organization.
The recently conducted EPI-WIN webinar, Zika Virus: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future, brought together experts to discuss the global Zika situation, as well as measures to track its transmission for preparedness and early response.