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Mapping Zika: From A Monkey In Uganda To A Growing Global Concern

The Zika virus has gone from an obscure disease to an international public health emergency.

Researchers have been able to trace the gradual spread of Zika — slowly for decades and then, in the words of World Health Organization head Dr. Margaret Chan, "explosively" since 2015, when it was first detected in Brazil. Now the virus has reached more than 20 countries and territories in the Americas. In Brazil, there have been 500,000-plus cases. Thousands of babies have been born in Zika-affected regions with the birth defect microcephaly (although a causal relationship has not yet been scientifically established).

Whether there is a link to microcephaly is one of many unanswered questions about this outbreak. But one thing is certain — the emergence of Zika, as seen on these maps, reflects the shrinking world we live in. "Individuals can get on a plane and cross great distances in a short period of time," says Dr. Nikos Vasilakis, a professor in the department of pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. And when they harbor diseases, a little-known virus can suddenly turn into a global concern.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.