Since the Zika epidemic of 2015 and 2016 sickened thousands of people in the Americas, and resulted in 3,700 babies born with birth defects —including microcephaly —researchers have produced a deluge of academic papers in an effort to answer key questions about the flavivirus.

Yesterday in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers published a comprehensive review of this Zika literature to date, and noted that while the rate of microcephaly is not as high as what was once predicted, the virus can have long-lasting consequences for those exposed to it in utero. They also warned that Zika could and will likely strike again.

Presently, Zika transmission has slowed and ceased throughout much of the epidemic regions. In 2018, there were fewer than 30,000 cases reported, compared with more than 500,000 cases reported at the peak of the pandemic in 2016, the authors write.

“There shouldn’t be a false sense of security. These things come back,” Albert Ko, MD, told CIDRAP News. Ko, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, is a co-author of the study.

Lower risk for microcephaly

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