Research Articles

Global outbreaks of zika infection by epidemic observatory (EpiWATCH), 2016-2019



Background: Emerging zika virus outbreaks have caused devastating impacts around the globe with severe sequelae in the general population. Although zika is a self-limiting infection, it can be potentially associated with devastating medical complications like microcephaly and Guillain-Barre Syndrome. This study aims to analyse outbreaks of zika infection globally from 2016 through to 2019 using data from the epidemic observatory, EpiWATCH.

Methods: EpiWATCH filtered and retrieved information on outbreaks of diseases or emerging infections reported daily by online news media. In this report, we used keywords such as “zika”, “zika virus”, “microcephaly” and “Guillain-Barre Syndrome”, and searched reports of zika outbreaks dated between March 2016 and March 2019. Descriptive epidemiologic analysis was conducted in relation to geolocation and time.

Results: Using an open-source data, a total of 120 media reports of zika outbreaks globally from 2016-2019 were analysed. The total numbers of zika cases retrieved from EpiWATCH by year were 81,852 (2016), 609 (2017), 1,800 (2018) and 15 cases (2019) respectively. By geographical distribution, zika infections were seen across 19 countries, through various transmission modes in the study. The number of zika-related microcephaly cases were 15 in 2016 and 68 cases in 2017, and no other cases were reported thereafter. Seven cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome were also reported in 2016.   

Conclusion: The epidemic intelligence, EpiWATCH, represents relevant sources of information for reporting of rare or severe diseases or emerging infections globally. Using information from digital data streams could help in early identification of outbreaks or diseases and generate effective public health interventions in mitigating emerging health threats ahead of time than traditional surveillance systems.  


Zika virusMicrocephalyGuillain-Barre SyndromeEpiWatchOutbreaksSurveillance
  • Year: 2020
  • Volume: 2
  • DOI: 10.31646/gbio.83
  • Submitted on 27 Jul 2020
  • Published on 21 Oct 2020
  • Peer Reviewed