On February 1 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Zika has continued to spread geographically where Aedes mosquitoes are present, with 84 countries reporting infections. With promising results internationally, the World Mosquito Program’s Wolbachia method is helping to reduce Aedes aegypti-borne diseases, including Zika, dengue and chikungunya.
First identified in Ugandan monkeys in 1947, and in humans in 1952, the Zika virus was almost dormant for six decades. Global outbreaks in 2015 were recorded in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, with Brazil reporting an association between Zika virus infection during pregnancy and microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
Since 2015, more than ½ million suspected cases of Zika have been reported, with 3,521 recorded cases of congenital brain abnormalities associated with Zika. There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika virus, other than rest and treating fever with common medicines.
The World Mosquito Program’s Wolbachia method is aiming to breed a generation of mosquitoes that help to block the transmission of Zika, as well as other Aedes aegypti-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.