The Zika virus epidemic surged through parts of South and North America in early 2015.

You may remember the continual influx of news reports on the Zika virus. Expectant mothers flocked to their local big box store for industrial-grade mosquito repellant. Fast forward to 2021, and the Covid-19 pandemic has consumed the world. 

What happened to the Zika? What makes the Zika virus unique in comparison to other bloodborne pathogens.

Continue reading for an update on the Zika virus.

Bloodborne Pathogens

The Zika virus, unlike other bloodborne pathogens, transmission can occur through mosquito bites.

Zika transmission can also occur from the following:

  • From mother to child during pregnancy
  • Sexual intercourse with an infected partner
  • Blood transfusions
  • Laboratory and healthcare environment exposure

Bloodborne pathogens training is available and encouraged if you have a likelihood of coming in contact with blood, contaminated needles, or bodily fluids, this training is vital.

First responders and healthcare workers should receive bloodborne pathogens training. 

Health Consequences

Doctors across the U.S. worked hard to reassure expectant mother’s that the Zika virus is was mild. During the Zika virus endemic, the CDC recommended that pregnant women avoid travel to areas affected by the virus.

Although typically mild, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can raise cause for concern. In addition, serious congenital disabilities can occur as a result of the Zika virus, including microcephaly. This condition causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Microcephaly may cause a blood disorder that can result in bruising, bleeding, or slow blood clotting. 

In rare occurrences, Zika infection can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome. Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disorder of the immune system. Also known as GBS, Guillain-Barré syndrome can cause tingling in the arms and legs due to the nerves attacked by immune cells.

The Importance Of Infection Control

Healthcare professionals are the unsung heroes of our great nation and around the globe. Yet, their strength and ability to take charge during times of crisis are admirable. 

The Zika virus epidemic was no different.

Healthcare professionals must undergo rigorous infection control and bloodborne pathogens training. You may be wondering, “What is Bloodborne Pathogens Training?”

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms that can be transmitted via exposure to blood. Healthcare professionals must learn how to prevent exposure, how specific pathogens such as the Zika virus spread, and what to do if exposed to infectious substances. 

History Of The Zika Virus

The history of the Zika virus is well documented. However, you may be interested to learn how the virus evolved.

The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947. Scientists were conducting routine research on yellow fever in the Zika forest. A monkey was taken captive for routine samples.

In 1948 the virus appeared in mosquitos from the Zika forest. However, it wasn’t until 1952 that the first human cases of the Zika virus were detected.

Between 1969-1983 the Zika virus spread to the Asian continent. The virus was detected in mosquitos in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

In the year 2007, the Zika virus caused the first large outbreak in humans. This outbreak occurred on the Pacific island of Yap, which is located in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Between 2013-2014 virus outbreaks occurred in four other Pacific islands. This resulted in thousands of suspected Zika virus infections.

In March 2015, Brazil notified the world health organization of an illness distinguished by a skin rash. The Zika virus was not suspected as a culprit.

In February 2016, the world health organization declared the Zika virus a public health emergency.


The most common symptoms for individuals infected with the Zika virus are fever, joint pain, rash, and redness of the eyes.

Muscle pain and headaches may also occur. Typically symptoms last from a few days to a week in duration.

Although some individuals may be asymptomatic, you need to remember that Zika virus testing must be done if known travel to an affected area has occurred. Only 20% of individuals infected with the Zika virus will become ill.

Women who are pregnant at the time of infection have a greater risk of miscarriage. If you have recently traveled to an area experiencing a known Zika virus outbreak, consult your doctor for available Zika virus testing. 


Unfortunately, treatment options are minimal for the Zika virus.

The FDA approved the first human trial of a Zika virus vaccine in 2016. Currently, no approved vaccine or specific medicine exists. Thankfully, it is uncommon for persons infected with the Zika virus to seek hospital treatment.

The CDC recommends you do the following:

  • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Treat the symptoms
  • Rest
  • Avoid taking aspirin in case you have dengue fever 
  • Take Tylenol to reduce fever or pain

Currently, industry-sponsored drugs for the treatment of the Zika virus are in phase one clinical trials. These therapies focus on the immune system, RNA polymerase, and viral antigens.

The likelihood of a phase one clinical trial drug receiving approval is slim to none at a staggering 12.9%. Vaccine development, on average, takes approximately eight and a half years from phase one to approval. 

Caretaking With Zika

Your thirst for knowledge on the Zika virus may continue to grow.
You may be wondering, “What happens if a family member catches the Zika virus”?

The CDC recommends these steps when caretaking a person with the Zika virus to avoid blood, bodily fluids, or areas with exposed skin. Wash your hands with soap and warm water after assisting with care.

You must promptly remove and wash your clothes if they should get bodily fluids on them. Be sure to clean the sick person’s area daily. Use household cleaners and disinfectants to clean any contaminated surfaces.

Zika Prevention

Mosquitos are known to be frequent fliers in the southeastern United States, especially during the summer months. But, you may be intrigued to know, one of the best methods of preventing the Zika virus is mosquito control.

The environmental protection agency has a search tool available online for EPA-approved mosquito repellent products.

Mosquitos need standing water such as water puddles or ponds to lay their eggs.

A few quick tips to clear your yard of these perky bloodsuckers include riding your yard of any standing water. Next, items such as buckets, planters, or trash containers need to be emptied regularly. Next, kill mosquito larvae outside your home using larvicides. Finally, kill adult mosquitos with yard sprays or foggers.

More protective measures include wearing protective clothing. For example, you may cringe at the thought of wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants in the hot summer heat. However, it would help if you remembered though uncomfortable protective clothing is for your protection against the Zika virus.  

Zika Virus Statistics 

The CDC continues to study the effects of the Zika virus.
Approximately 10% of babies born to women with an active Zika virus infection during pregnancy in the U.S. suffered congenital disabilities.

In U.S. territories, only 5% of babies born suffered congenital disabilities.

Mothers infected with the Zika virus in the first trimester had a higher proportion of congenital disabilities. The scary thing about the Zika virus is the unfortunate reality that babies exposed before birth may have long-term health issues.  

Latest Zika Virus Research Updates

In June 2021, a group of scientists at Colorado State University discovered Zika virus RNA in free-ranging African bats. RNA is also known as ribonucleic acid, which plays a vital role in the function of genes.

This discovery was paramount in providing more information on the ecology of flaviviruses. West Nile virus, Dengue Fever, and Zika virus are members of the flavivirus family.

Though the recent discovery sheds light on the ecology of the Zika virus and its association with bats, there is still much to learn about the Zika virus.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is currently collaborating research efforts with the government, academia, and biotechnology industries to understand the Zika virus further.

The latest news on the NIAID website provides information on a recently developed Zika vaccine improving fetal outcomes in animals. This vaccine uses a small round piece of DNA that contains genes that can induce an immune response by encoding Zika virus surface proteins.

Scientists are currently evaluating this experimental vaccine in phase two human trials.

Keeping An Eye On The Future

Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. Most people can attest to that.

The reality is bloodborne pathogens and viruses do exist. We must find ways to coexist with them proactively. Education is essential in staying healthy and protecting those around you and yourself.