Scientists have confirmed the Zika virus is spread through bites from mosquitos of the aedes (a-deez) species: the same mosquitoes that spread dengue fever.

But just how does the bite of a mosquito, which doesn’t fly very far, create a worldwide epidemic? Daniel Janies, Ph.D., a professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has created a computer program that provides an eye opening view of the worldwide spread of the disease.

“Most of what epidemiology looks at is the occurrence of the disease,” explains Janies. “But we wanted to look at the evolution of the disease and the evolution of the bug itself, the pathogen. So we used evolutionary biology techniques and genetics to connect all of the cases and see how the pathogens are moving over space, time and different host organisms.”

Zika was first identified in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947. It’s considered a mild disease in Africa. And Janies‘ model shows the virus staying in Africa for almost 20 years.

“But then things change and it starts to move,” says Janies, as he stands in front of a television screen with a Google Earth image of the world in the center.  There are red dots connected by white lines over the middle of the African continent.

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