Infectious Diseases

28 March 2017

The Zika virus makes its way to Africa

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently added four countries to its list of places with local transmission of the Zika virus. Two are in Africa.


The CDC recently issued a travel notice adding Angola and Guinea-Bissau to their list of places with local transmission of the Zika virus.

It’s the first time since November 2016 that the CDC has updated this list. The Maldives and Solomon Islands were also added. You can view the map of affected countries here.

Mosquitoes that spread Zika don’t usually live at elevations above 2 000m. If you’re travelling to Angola, you are at minimal risk of getting Zika in areas above this elevation. However, you still need to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Guinea-Bissau also carries a low risk of transmission, but again you need to exercise caution against mosquito bites. 

Infection risk

Zika is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes. Symptoms usually last for between two and seven days, and include a mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache.

The Aedes mosquito also transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

Will the Zika virus make it's way to South Africa? Probably not, according to this article published on Health24 in 2016. 

Where did the Zika virus come from?

The mosquito-borne flavirus was first identified in in monkeys in Uganda in 1947. In 1952, the virus was identified in humans in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Between the 1960s and 1980s, human infections were discovered across Africa and Asia, and the first large outbreak was reported in 2007 from the Island of Yap (Federated States of Micronesia).

By July 2015, Brazil reported an association between the Zika virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome, and in October an association between Zika and microcephaly was reported. 

mosquito, zika, infographic

Complications of Zika

Known complications include microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Microcephaly is a birth defect where babies’ heads are significantly smaller compared to those who haven’t been exposed to the virus. It’s also associated with incomplete brain development.

Zika virus, mosquito, birth defect


Guillain-Barré syndrome, on the other hand, is a condition where the immune system attacks the body’s nerves, which can cause muscle weakness and even paralysis. 

Read more:

Will the Zika virus spread to South Africa?

10 facts you should know about Zika

Brazil says Zika vaccine will take 3 to 5 years