There has been a plethora of reports on the microcephaly surge in Brazil and the potential link between the newest mosquito borne virus in the Americas, Zika virus, and the rare neurological condition found in newborns.

Image/Brazil Health Ministry
Image/Brazil Health Ministry

Last week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) addressed this issue in a Q & A saying research is being done to determine what effects Zika can have on fetuses. On 28 November 2015, the Ministry of Health of Brazil established a relationship between an increase in cases of microcephaly in newborns and Zika virus infections in the country’s northeast.

According to a preliminary analysis of research carried out by Brazilian authorities, the greatest risk of microcephaly and malformations appears to be associated with infection during the first trimester of pregnancy. Health authorities, with support from PAHO and other agencies, are conducting research to clarify the cause, risk factors, and consequences of microcephaly.

The UN health agency continues: Currently information on transmission from mothers to babies during pregnancy or childbirth is very limited. Perinatal transmission has been reported with other mosquito-borne viruses such as dengue and chikungunya. Research is currently under way on possible mother-to-child transmission of the virus and its effects on babies. Pregnant women in general, and particularly those who develop symptoms of Zika virus infection, should be closely monitored by health providers.

What should pregnant women living in these areas or traveling to these areas do? The answer is the same–Everyone, including pregnant women and women of childbearing age, should avoid exposure to mosquito bites, for example, by wearing long sleeves and long pants, using insecticide-treated mosquito nets and using insect repellents indicated by health authorities and according to the instructions on the label. In every home and its surroundings, it is very important to identify and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites.