Discovered in Uganda in 1947, Zika has been documented since the 1950s along an equatorial belt from Africa to Asia. In 2014, the virus spread eastward to French Polynesia, and in 2015 to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America, where the outbreak continues. Zika is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. Because these mosquitoes are found throughout the world, it’s likely that outbreaks will spread to new countries, scientists say. The illness Zika causes is similar to a mild form of dengue fever; it can't yet be prevented by drugs or vaccines. Through a Dear Colleague Letter, the National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology's Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Program is accepting research proposals on Zika that address the ecological transmission dynamics of the virus.
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