The Zika epidemic has garnered extensive international attention since the current outbreak was first confirmed in Brazil in May 2015. Since then, active Zika transmissions have been documented in more than 30 countries across the Americas region — including South, Central and North America and the Caribbean — with more cases in new areas expected to follow in the coming weeks and months. In response to the sudden outbreak of the Zika virus and the health complications associated with it, the World Health Organization declared, on February 1, 2016, that the virus constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. By some estimates, up to 4 million people in the Americas may contract the virus by the end of 2016.
In the United States, the only reported cases of the Zika virus have been associated with those who recently traveled to countries with known outbreaks. However, health experts have warned that localized transmissions in the United States are probable in the coming months as temperatures rise and mosquitoes carrying the virus expand into new territories. As a result of relatively favorable climate conditions for the disease-carrying Aedes mosquitoes, many SLC member states are particularly vulnerable to limited outbreaks over the next several months.