Zika virus

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noun, plural: Zika viruses

A virus belonging to the genus Flavivirus that causes Zika disease in humans, and is spread by a bite of an infected mosquito (Aedes species)


The Zika virus belongs to the genus, Flavivirus. Flavivirus species are characterized by having a positive-sense, single-stranded RNA of about 10,000 to 11,000 bases encased in an icosahedral envelope. The RNA genome codes for three structural proteins and seven nonstructural proteins. Similar to other species of this genus, the Zika virus is an arbovirus. It makes use of an arthropod as vector. In particular, it utilizes mosquitoes of the genus Aedes, e.g. A. aegypti, A. africanus, A. apicoargenteus, A. furcifer, A. hensilli, A. luteocephalus, and A. vitattus. The name Zika is derived from where it was first isolated in 1947, i.e. Zika forest of Uganda.

The Zika virus is the causative agent of the Zika disease. Zika disease is an acute febrile illness transmitted by a bite of a mosquito infected with the virus. Inside the mosquito, the virus replicates in the midgut epithelial cells and salivary gland cells. In about five to ten days, the viruses are in the insect's saliva, which when inoculated into the human skin would transmit the viruses into the human skin where they can infect the epidermal keratinocytes, the skin fibroblasts, and the Langerhans cells. They may reach the bloodstream and spread to the lymph nodes. The infection may result in Zika disease characterized by symptoms such as fever, red eyes, joint pain, headache, and a maculopapular rash. The mother-to-child route of transmission during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk to brain defects such as microencephaly in newborns.

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