Brazil is in a state of emergency: a disease outbreak caused by Zika virus recently linked with babies born with unusually small brains has prompted authorities to encourage couples not to go forward with pregnancy plans because of the risk entailed.
Health experts have found an association between a mosquito-borne virus known as Zika and a neurological condition known as microcephaly affecting newborns and characterised by an unusual brain development. Mosquito Aedes aegypti is behind the spread of the virus; it is the same species that propagates the dengue virus.
Brazil has had more than 2,400 suspected cases of microcephaly this year – this figure is in high contrast to that of last year, when only around 150 cases were known. Now, several areas of the country are affected; for instance, in Pernambuco state, over 900 cases have been recorded. Consequently, 6 states are in a state of emergency.
When scientists analysed the microcephaly cases in the northeastern regions of Brazil, they found Zika virus in the blood of a baby born with the defect. Health officials explain that the foetuses of pregnant women infected in the first trimester might be more prone to developing microcephaly.
Patients suffering from the disorder need special care for the rest of their lives – hence why the authorities wish to minimise the number of cases.