Several Thousand Infants Born With Microcephaly* In 2015
|Mosquito borne virus has transferred from monkeys to human and is now spreading|
[ UPDATE JAN 28: The World Health Organization is suddenly estimating that the Zika virus has infected from 3 to 4 million people in the Western Hemisphere. Women in Brazil are being advised to delay getting pregnant until 2018. ]
Brazilian health authorities have declared a state of emergency after an outbreak of infants born with brain damage this year. The Health Ministry is investigating thousands of cases of microcephaly in 2015, a huge statistical anomaly believed to be caused by the Zika virus. In a normal year, there are fewer than 200 in Brazil. In addition to a smaller head size the defines microcephaly, the condition is associated with retardation, celebral palsy and other birth defects. One professional went so far as to suggest that women should avoid pregnancy until the scope of the epidemic can be determined.
The Zika virus is a pathogen that has passed from monkeys to humans and is spread by the mosquito species aedes aegypti. The virus was first discovered in humans in Africa about forty years ago, but something has changed recently and now it’s spreading rapidly. Although the crisis is in its early stages, the cause appears to be global warming, which is increasing the range of the mosquito.
Brazil is now estimating between 500,000 and 1.3 million cases were tentatively identified in May of this year. The plaque is spreading in both South American, Central America and Mexico, as well as Tahiti, Polynesia and Cape Verde. Zika is similar to dengue and yellow fever, both of which are also carried by the aegipti vector. The fact that they do not always cause symptoms in adults makes the challenge particularly difficult with regard to preventing a global outbreak in pregnant women.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health posted the following statement on its official website: “This is an unprecedented situation, unprecedented in world scientific research.”
The 2016 Summer Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, a location not known as a paragon of public sanitation.
* microcephaly is a neurological condition that causes shrunken skulls in newborns.