Emerging Causes of Arbovirus Encephalitis in North America: Powassan, Chikungunya, and Zika Viruses

  • Christopher T. Doughty
  • Sigal Yawetz
  • Jennifer LyonsEmail author
Infection (J Halperin, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Infection


Arboviruses are arthropod-borne viruses transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes, ticks, or other arthropods. Arboviruses are a common and an increasing cause of human illness in North America. Powassan virus, Chikungunya virus, and Zika virus are arboviruses that have all recently emerged as increasing causes of neurologic illness. Powassan virus almost exclusively causes encephalitis, but cases are rare, sporadic, and restricted to portions of North America and Russia. Chikungunya virus has spread widely across the world, causing millions of infections. Encephalitis is a rare manifestation of illness but is more common and severe in neonates and older adults. Zika virus has recently spread through much of the Americas and has been associated mostly with microcephaly and other congenital neurologic complications. Encephalitis occurring in infected adults has also been recently reported. This review will discuss the neuropathogenesis of these viruses, their transmission and geographic distribution, the spectrum of their neurologic manifestations, and the appropriate method of diagnosis.


Arboviruses Encephalitis Zika virus Chikungunya virus Powassan virus 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Christopher T. Doughty, Sigal Yawetz, and Jennifer Lyons declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher T. Doughty
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sigal Yawetz
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jennifer Lyons
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  2. 2.Division of Neurological Infections and Inflammatory Diseases, Department of NeurologyBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA
  3. 3.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  4. 4.Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Internal MedicineBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA

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