History, Epidemiology, and Clinical Manifestations of Zika: A Systematic Review

Am J Public Health. 2016 Apr;106(4):606-12. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303112.


Objectives: To describe salient epidemiological characteristics of Zika virus outbreaks across the world and to examine the clinical presentations, complications, and atypical manifestations related to their occurrence in recent history.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the literature by searching through MEDLINE, Embase, and Global Health Library, as well as the epidemiological bulletins and alerts from the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control over the period 1954 to 2016.

Results: The search yielded 547 records. We retained 333 for further analysis, to which we added 11 epidemiological bulletins from various sources. Of these, we systematically reviewed 52 articles and reports, revealing some epidemiological features and patterns of spread of the Zika virus worldwide, as well as pathological outcomes suspected to be linked to Zika outbreaks. Neurologic disorders among zika patients were similar in Brazil and French Polynesia but a causal link is not established. Incidence of zika infection in pregnant women is not known. In Brazil, during the zika outbreak the incidence of microcephaly increased more than 20 times. Among 35 infants with microcephaly, born from women suspected to have Zika infection during pregnancy in northeast Brazil, 74% of the mothers reported rash during the first and second trimester.

Conclusions: On February 1, 2016, The World Health Organization declared the ongoing Zika crisis an emergency and that, although not yet scientifically proven, the link between the virus and growing numbers of microcephaly cases was "strongly suspected." However, the causal relationship between zika and microcephaly is not universally accepted. Public Health Implications. The current situation with regard to Zika is not encouraging, because there is no vaccine, no treatment, and no good serological test, and vector control remains a challenge.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Disease Outbreaks / history*
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Microcephaly / complications
  • Microcephaly / etiology
  • Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • World Health Organization
  • Zika Virus / isolation & purification*
  • Zika Virus Infection / diagnosis*
  • Zika Virus Infection / epidemiology
  • Zika Virus Infection / history
  • Zika Virus Infection / virology