Health topic

Zika virus (ZIKV)

Zika virus belongs to the Flaviviridae family of viruses which includes Dengue, Yellow  Fever, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile viruses.1 Zika virus is mainly spread by infected mosquitoes, though transmission may also occur through mother-to-child, sexual intercourse and infected donor blood used for transfusions.2

There is evidence linking Zika virus infection to birth defects in fetuses and newborns, and neurological complications in adults.3,4 Based on a systematic review of the scientific literature, in 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that Zika virus infection during pregnancy may cause congenital brain abnormalities, including microcephaly; in addition, the virus is a trigger of Guillain-Barré syndrome.5 In February 2016, WHO subsequently declared Zika virus infection a public health emergency.6 Today, Zika virus infection remains a significant public health challenge, but is no longer classified as a public health emergency.7

Zika virus can also be transmitted through blood transfusions with contaminated blood.8 Zika virus infection can be devastating for patients with weaker immune systems such as the elderly, or people living with cancer (also people who are more likely to receive a blood transfusion).9 In countries endemic for Zika virus, reducing the risk of transmission, particularly via contaminated blood, provides patients and healthcare providers with the confidence and reassurance of safe blood transfusions.8  


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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Viral hemorrhagic fevers: flaviviridae. Available at: [Last accessed June 2017]
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika virus transmissions and risks. Available at:
    [Last accessed June 2017]
  3. Rasmussen SA, Jamieson DJ, Honein MA, et al. Zika virus and birth defects – Reviewing the evidence for causality. NEJM. 2016; 374(20): 1981-1987
  4. World health Organization, Pan American Health Organization, Epidemiological Update: neurological syndrome, congenital anomalies, and Zika virus infection. 17 January 2016. Available at: Last accessed Feb 2018.
  5. World Health Organization. Zika virus and complications: questions and answers. Available at: [Last accessed June 2017]
  6. World Health Organization. Epidemiological alert – Zika virus infection 7 May 2015. Available at: [Last accessed June 2017]
  7. World Health Organization. Fifth Meeting of the emergency committee under the International Health Regulations (2005) regarding microencephaly, other neurological disorders and Zika virus. Available at: [Last accessed June 2017]
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zika and Blood Transfusion. Available at: Last accessed: February 2018.
  9. Busch M.P. Zika and the safety of the US blood supply. Clin Adv Hematol Oncol. 2016; 14(9): 677.
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