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Epidemiology of Zika virus, 1947–2007
  1. H Joshua Posen1,
  2. Jay S Keystone2,
  3. Jonathan B Gubbay3,
  4. Shaun K Morris4
  1. 1Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Tropical Disease Unit, Division of Infectious Diseases, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Public Health Ontario Laboratories, Public Health Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Division of Infectious Diseases, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Shaun K Morris; shaun.morris{at}


Introduction Since 1947, Zika virus has been identified sporadically in humans in Africa and Asia; however, clinically consequential Zika virus disease had not been documented prior to the current outbreak in the Americas. Considering 6 decades have passed since the first identification of the virus, it is perhaps unexpected that Zika virus was recognised only recently as capable of causing disease epidemics. Substantial work on understanding the epidemiology of Zika virus has been conducted since the virus' first outbreak in 2007 in Micronesia; however, there has been little study of the earlier data on Zika virus.

Methods A systematic literature search was conducted to identify evidence of Zika virus infection in humans from 1947 to 2007. Data extracted included seroprevalence of Zika virus infection, age distributions of positive test results and serologic test modalities used. Country-level and age-specific seroprevalence was calculated. Estimates of seroprevalence by different serologic test modalities were compared.

Results 12 026 citations were retrieved by the literature search, and 76 articles were included in this review. Evidence of Zika virus infection in humans was found in 29 countries in Africa, 8 countries in Asia and 1 country in Europe. Country-level seroprevalence of Zika virus infection ranged from 0.4% to 53.3%. Seroprevalence of Zika virus infection was found to increase across the lifespan; 15–40% of reproductive-age individuals may have been previously infected. No significant difference was found between estimates of seroprevalence by different serologic test modalities.

Discussion Zika virus has likely been endemic for decades in certain regions of the world; however, the majority of reproductive-age individuals have likely not been infected. Historical evidence of Zika virus infection exists regardless of the serologic test modality used.

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