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Public Health Threat: Zika Virus


Zika virus is a relatively new disease in the United States. That is why it should be studied and people should be informed of its symptoms, potential complications, and recommended preventive measures. The motivation for choosing Zika as the subject of the public health paper is the fact that more than 150 people were reported as infected with the virus since the beginning of this year (Chang, 2016). It is the figure for Florida only; the numbers for the United States are even more spectacular. As for Miami, my county, 109 people are already affected by the illness.

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Review of the history of the condition

Zika was discovered in Uganda in 1947. It was named after the forest in Uganda where it was first detected. Initially, Zika was common to Northern Africa and some Asian countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, India, Australia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Vietnam. However, there were several outbreaks of the disease throughout the South Pacific region due to the spillover effect (Fauci & Morens, 2016; Hamel et al., 2015).

As for the Americas, it is believed that the outburst of the problem is associated with the introduction of the virus to Brazil in 2014. The challenge has become even more severe due to the communication of the disease. The primary channel of spreading the infection is tourism, especially the attractiveness of tropical Americas to most people in this region as well as the fact that the countries mentioned above are appealing to the rest of the world. The first official alert was made in 2015 when the Pan American Health Organization confirmed the case of Zika in Brazil. In 2016, the disease was declared as the international health concern by the World Health Organization (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016).

Epidemiological data

Zika is an arbovirus, which belongs to the flavivirus family (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, n.d.). It is transmitted by female mosquitos. The scheme of the disease spreading is similar to the case of malaria. Once a mosquito has bitten an infected individual, it becomes a carrier of the virus (Fauci & Morens, 2016). It is vital to note that only two types of mosquitos are dangerous – Aedes aegypti (yellow fever mosquito) and Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito). However, the area of these species is the tropical and subtropical world, which makes the disease extent startling (Musso & Nhan, 2015).

The illness is characterized by several symptoms such as muscle ache, fatigue, fever, conjunctivitis, arthralgia-myalgia, prostration, maculopapular rash, headache, emesis, and some others (Malone et al., 2016). Some rare signs include sore throat, back pain, sweating, cough, photophobia, anorexia, dizziness, gastrointestinal disorders, and aphthous ulcers (Musso & Nhan, 2015). They last from several days to one week.

However, it is paramount to say that only 20 percent of patients reported similar symptoms and were diagnosed with Zika virus disease. It is assumed that 80 percent of the affected do not experience any of the signs mentioned above (Malone et al., 2016). It means that the disease is hard to manage due to its asymptomatic progression during the initial infection phase in most cases.

There are several positive features of the virus. Even though it is impossible to control its spreading because it is transmitted by mosquitos, the illness has not evolved since it was initially detected. In addition to it, there were no cases of Zika-related deaths or hemorrhagic fever reported (Fauci & Morens, 2016). It means that the disease is a relatively safe one. Nevertheless, there are some complications, which are associated with it.

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They include Guillain-Barré symptoms, some neurologic conditions, and microcephaly. It is recognized that the disease can be blood-borne and sexually transmitted. The channels of transmittance are from mothers to their children if women were infected during pregnancy and from men to women during sexual intercourse if the virus was long present in semen. Even though the bacteria are also found in saliva, it is impossible to infect other people this way (Malone et al., 2016).

Application of the levels of prevention

As for now, there are no ways of medical prevention of Zika disease, i.e. no vaccine. There are only two ways to avoid the spreading of the disease and its complications. The first one is an aggressive mosquito control system – dispersing insecticides. However, this method is not popular anymore because of poor sanitation conditions in urban territories and overpopulation as well as the negative influence of these chemical products on human health (Fauci & Morens, 2016).

That said, there is only one preventive measure left – avoiding mosquito bites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016) recommend taking several steps to minimize the risk of being infected including keeping mosquitos outside, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, applying mosquito repellents, and remembering that Zika-spreading mosquitos bite mostly during daytime. Some other tips involve checking the list of the infected countries before planning trips and having safe sex as well as being extremely cautious during pregnancy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Finally, it is crucial to seek professional aid in case of experiencing common symptoms.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Zika virus. Web.

Chang, D. (2016). Four new Zika cases in Florida, including two in Miami-Dade. Miami Herald. Web.

Fauci, A. S., & Morens, M. M. (2016). Zika virus in the Americas – Yet another arbovirus threat. The New England Journal of Medicine, 374(7), 601-604.

Hamel, R., Dejarnak, O., Wichit, S., Ekchariyawat, P., Neyret, A., Natthanej, L., … Misse, D. (2015). Biology of Zika virus infection in human skin cells. Journal of Virology, 89(17), 8880-8896. Web.

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Malone, R.W., Homan, J., Callahan, M.V., Glasspool-Malone, J., Damodaran, L., Schneider, A. D. B.,… Wilson, J. (2016). Zika virus: Medical countermeasure development challenges. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 10(3), 1-26. Web.

Musso, D., & Nhan, T. X. (2015). Emergence of Zika. Clinical Microbiology, 4(5), 222-226. Web.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (n.d.). Zika virus. Web.

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