The number of microcephaly cases reported in Brazil grew by nearly 400 during the past week, bringing the cumulative total of suspected cases to 2,782, including 40 deaths, the Brazilian Health Ministry reported (computer translated).
These cases are distributed in 618 municipalities of 20 units of the Federation. Brazil averages 100-150 cases annually prior to 2015.
The continued increase, particularly in the northeast, has prompted health officials to advise women to abstain from getting pregnant. “It’s a very personal decision, but at this moment of uncertainty, if families can put off their pregnancy plans, that’s what we’re recommending,” Angela Rocha, the pediatric infectologist at Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Brazil, told CNN.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, microcephaly is a medical condition in which the circumference of the head is smaller than normal because the brain has not developed properly or has stopped growing. Microcephaly can be present at birth or it may develop in the first few years of life. It is most often caused by genetic abnormalities that interfere with the growth of the cerebral cortex during the early months of fetal development. It is associated with Down’s syndrome, chromosomal syndromes, and neurometabolic syndromes. Babies may also be born with microcephaly if, during pregnancy, their mother abused drugs or alcohol or became infected with a number of viral or toxic agents.
There is no treatment for microcephaly that can return a child’s head to a normal size or shape. Treatment focuses on ways to decrease the impact of the associated deformities and neurological disabilities.
The investigation into the link between microcephaly and Zika virus infection continues. Brazil health officials have trained more labs in the capability to test for the mosquito borne virus.
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Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch
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