The Colombia Health Ministry confirmed Friday the first cases of the mosquito borne viral infection, Zika fever in the country, according to an El Espectador report (computer translated).

Aedes aegypti/CDC
Aedes aegypti/CDC

Deputy Minister of Public Health and Health Services Delivery, Fernando Ruiz said nine cases were confirmed by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bolivar department.

“As was the case with chikungunya, Zika virus came to Colombia to stay. This is a disease that was introduced in America via Easter Island in 2014 and later appeared in Brazil this year.  The viruses arrival in the country was imminent,” the minister said.

Zika virus is transmitted to human through the same mosquito vector that transmits dengue and chikungunya, the Aedes mosquito.

According to the Ministry, Cartagena was the city where the imported virus was introduced; however, the epidemiological link/identity of the person who brought the virus is unknown. “That would mean that a foreign tourist had been bitten by infected mosquitoes that transmitted the virus and this started the chain of infection in the capital of Bolívar,” said Ruiz.

Ruiz says 26 million Colombians are at risk of contracting the virus.

“The virus is spreading in the Americas”, said director general the INS, Martha Lucia Ospina. She went on to say that Brazil is reporting thousands of cases monthly and several major outbreaks of Zika have been recorded recently, most notably in French Polynesia.

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.

Until recently, it was 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.

Ospina notes, “(But) some of those infected have it presented neurological affectations character polyneuritis, among others, in a few cases.”

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

Follow @bactiman63