Demystifying the Zika Virus [3D Interactive]


zik-world-map_active_02-01-2016_web.jpgAreas with active Zika virus transmissions. Feb. 1, 2016 – Courtesy of the CDC

Estimated to infect 4 million people by the end of 2016, Zika virus was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday afternoon. This declaration, which was used during the 2009 flu pandemic and the 2014 Ebola outbreak, is due to the virus’ suspected association with a birth defect called microcephaly.

Although Zika virus does not pose a serious risk to adults, the WHO declaration will spearhead efforts to find out how the virus is transmitted, how long it stays in the bloodstream, and how it may affect a growing fetus. This declaration will also accelerate the development of treatments (as there are currently none).

While researchers continue their search for answers, click the widgets below to explore what we do know about Zika virus:

Zika Virus Structure:

  • Zika virus is part of the flavivirus family and is closely related to tropical diseases such as dengue virus and West Nile virus.
  • The virus itself contains a signal strand of RNA enclosed within a lipid (fatty) envelope. This envelope is enclosed within a larger cell membrane.
  • Once in the bloodstream of a host, the Zika virus cell membrane undergoes structural changes that enables it to attach to healthy cells.
  • Zika virus uses healthy cells to help it replicate and reproduce.


Zika Virus Transmission:

  • The first human cases of Zika virus appeared in Nigeria in 1954, but the virus did not appear in the Western Hemisphere until May 2015.
  • Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, which live close to people and lay their eggs in or near stagnant water.
  • Zika virus is generally not transmitted by person-to-person contact. However, there have been rare cases where the virus was sexually transmitted, or transmitted from mother to child during birth.

Zika Virus Symptoms:


Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information on Zika virus transmission, symptoms, and treatment.





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