The rise of microcephaly – a disease that causes babies to be born with small brains – is now being dubbed a global epidemic by researchers. Due to the spread of Zika, scientists from Britain and Brazil embarked on a case study between January and May 2016 to explore the connection between the virus and the disease.Their findings, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal, reveal that more than half of the babies born with microcephaly had traces of Zika in their blood.
The team studied newborns in an area strongly hit by the virus – Brazil. Of the 32 infants born with microcephaly in those four months, 13 were found to have Zika in their blood or cerebrospinal fluid. Of the 62 infants born with normal head sizes, none had Zika. Researchers say this is definitive proof that “the microcephaly epidemic is a result of congenital Zika virus infection”.
The researchers recommend “that we prepare for a global epidemic of microcephaly and other manifestations of congenital Zika syndrome.” Scientists are currently awaiting additional data from the study so they can “assess other potential risk factors,” however that’s not preventing them from proposing that Zika be placed on a list of congenital infections that occur before or during birth. As well as its association with microcephaly, Zika is also the cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a very rare disorder where the immune system attacks the nerves. This can eventually lead to complete paralysis.
At the moment Zika is known to be transmitted via mosquitos.
Key Zika Facts:
– According to the World Health Organization, symptoms include mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. They normally last for 2-7 days.
– Two cases of Zika transmission reported in the US in Miami, FL
– Two cases of mosquito-borne Zika reported in three US territories
– For a list of all countries with active Zika virus transmission, visit the CDC’s map of affected nations.
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