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Brazil Confirms Thousands of Zika-Related Microcephaly Cases

MAY 05, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
The Ministry of Health (MOH) of Brazil has confirmed 1,271 nationwide cases of microcephaly.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Brazil first confirmed active Zika virus transmission in May 2015. However, a study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases confirmed that the disease has actually been circulating there since at least January of 2015.

In April 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that Zika infection in a pregnant woman can cause congenital microcephaly. More recently, the CDC published a study which outlined the stages of pregnancy at which Zika is most likely to cause microcephaly and other complications.

Brazil has been investigating a total of 7,343 possible cases of microcephaly since October 2015. On May 4, 2016, a press release published by the South American country’s MOH stated that there are currently 1,271 lab-confirmed cases of microcephaly and other congenital disorders of the nervous system in 470 municipalities, as of April 30, 2016. Of the confirmed cases, the MOH has identified 203 cases that linked back to a Zika virus infection. There are 3,580 suspected Zika-linked cases that are still under investigation.

The MOH is currently investigating all reported cases of microcephaly and other nervous system disorders for a possible link to Zika infection. The CDC reports that there is no cure for microcephaly, which can be caused by several complications, including:
  • Infections during pregnancy:
    • Zika
    • Rubella
    • Toxoplasmosis
    • Cytomegalovirus
  • Severe malnutrition
  • Alcohol, drug, and toxic chemical exposure
  • Interruption of the blood supply to the brain during the developmental stage
Among other South American countries with active Zika transmission is Panama. On May 4, 2016 the Ministry of Health of Panama stated that there are currently 264 cases of Zika infection, 14 of which are pregnant women. Currently, there are 4 cases of microcephaly in the country.

The Brazilian MOH reports that there were a total of 57 deaths (including miscarriages, stillbirths, and infant deaths) with a confirmed link to microcephaly or other nervous system complications since the start of the investigation. One hundred and seventy eight deaths are currently being investigated. The MOH advises all pregnant women to practice precautionary safety measures to reduce the Aedes aegypti mosquito (the Zika-causing mosquito) population around their homes, such as eliminating standing water containers and using recommended insect repellents to protect against mosquito bites.
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