With greater than 1,200 microcephaly cases reported in Brazil as of Saturday, a dramatic increase over the typical year and many questions yet unanswered, concern among the health community and public is growing at a feverish level.

Public domain image/Deyvid Aleksandr Raffo Setti
Public domain image/Deyvid Aleksandr Raffo Setti

The situation is so bad in northeast Brazil that The Minister of Health, Marcelo Castro, made some bold statements Tuesday.

According to an EBC Agência Brasil report (computer translated), Castro, speaking to reporters after opening the 15th National Health Conference said the increase in cases of microcephaly in Brazil is the “greatest calamity” that the country has experienced in recent times. “It is a situation of extraordinary dimensions what is happening. The government and society have to give an answer to the increase”.

Cláudio Maierovitch, director of the Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance at the Ministry of Health called it a public health emergency and called on an intensified fight against the mosquito.

As of 30 November 2015, 1,248 cases(99.7/100,000 live births) of microcephaly, including 7 deaths, have been reported in 14 states of Brazil, which are under investigation.

On 28 November 2015, the Brazil Ministry of Health established the relationship between the increase in occurrence of microcephaly and Zika virus infection through the detection of Zika virus genome in the blood and tissue samples of a baby from the state of Pará.

The newborn presented microcephaly and other congenital anomalies and died within five minutes of being born. The confirmation of the presence of the viral genome was provided by the Evandro Chagas Institute, national reference laboratory for arboviruses in Belém, Pará.

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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