What can climate-driven models teach us about the Zika outbreak?

Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that was first detected in Africa and, later, in Asia [1]. In the last decade it appears to have spread eastward from Asia, with outbreaks in Micronesia in 2007 and French Polynesia in 2013/14 [2, 3]. Retrospective analysis has suggested that the virus also reached South America in 2013 [4] although disease was not observed until 2015. The arrival of ZIKV in the large, populous and urbanized country of Brazil has precipitated the largest outbreak of Zika ever recorded. In 2015-16 there were several hundreds of thousands of infections, from Argentina in the south to Florida, US in the north [5].

Infection with ZIKV causes symptoms typical of arboviral infection (rash, joint pain, fever), and, on rare occasions, a temporary, autoimmune-associated paralysis called Guillain-Barr´e syndrome [6]. Its greatest clinical impact occurs in children born to mothers infected with ZIKV during pregnancy. Many such children have evidence of poorly developed heads, a condition called microcephaly [7].

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