Health officials on the South Pacific island nation are reporting an unspecified number of confirmed cases of the mosquito borne virus, Zika virus. This is the first time the island of Vanuatu has seen this disease.
Zika is a related virus to the more commonly known and more serious dengue fever virus.
This comes just weeks after Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu on March 14, 2015.
Zika virus (ZIKV) is a flavivirus related to yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis viruses; however, ZIKV produces a comparatively mild disease in humans. It was first isolated from an infected rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947.
Its relatively rare to see ZIKV outside of Africa and Asia. The virus is transmitted to humans via mosquitoes of the genus Aedes.
Information regarding pathogenesis of ZIKV is scarce but mosquito-borne flaviviruses are thought to replicate initially in dendritic cells near the site of inoculation then spread to lymph nodes and the bloodstream.
Symptoms may include a headache, a maculopapular rash covering the face, neck, trunk, and upper arms,which may spread to the palms and soles. Transient fever, malaise, and back pain may also develop.
In addition to the appearance of Zika virus on the island, mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria, dengue, and chikungunya are found in Vanuatu.