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The Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic in the Americas established ZIKV as a major public health threat and uncovered its association with severe diseases, including microcephaly. However, genetic epidemiology in some at-risk regions, particularly Central America and Mexico, remains limited. We report 61 ZIKV genomes from this region, generated using metagenomic sequencing with ZIKV-specific enrichment, and combine phylogenetic, epidemiological, and environmental data to reconstruct ZIKV transmission. These analyses revealed multiple independent ZIKV introductions to Central America and Mexico. One introduction, likely from Brazil via Honduras, led to most infections and the undetected spread of ZIKV through the region from late 2014. Multiple lines of evidence indicate biannual peaks of ZIKV transmission in the region, likely driven by varying local environmental conditions for mosquito vectors and herd immunity. The spatial and temporal heterogeneity of ZIKV transmission in Central America and Mexico challenges arbovirus surveillance and disease control measures.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Host Microbe

Publication Date





855 - 864.e7


Central America, Mexico, Zika virus, bait capture enrichment, effective reproductive number, genomics, metagenomic sequencing, phylodynamics, transmission, “spiked” primer enrichment, Adolescent, Adult, Brazil, Central America, Child, Child, Preschool, Genome, Viral, Humans, Immunity, Herd, Metagenomics, Mexico, Mosquito Vectors, Phylogeny, Sequence Analysis, RNA, Zika Virus, Zika Virus Infection