The spread of Zika virus in Latin America and the associated news of the suspected effects of the mosquito borne virus has been an important topic in this part of the world and we have been following it closely on this website.  This has prompted the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to publish an Epidemiological Alert today.

Western hemisphere map Public domain image/ E Pluribus Anthony
Western hemisphere map
Public domain image/ E Pluribus Anthony

Local transmission of Zika virus

Nine member states of the this region have now confirmed and reported autochthonous transmission of Zika virus to include Brazil, Chile (on Easter Island), Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela


In October 2015, the Brazil International Health Regulations (IHR) National Focal Point (NFP) notified the detection of an unusual increase in microcephaly3 cases in public and private healthcare facilities in Pernambuco state, Northeast Brazil.

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.

1st Zika deaths

As of 28 November 2015, the Brazil Ministry of Health has notified three deaths associated with Zika virus infection. The fatal cases are two adults and one newborn.

Guillain-Barré syndrome 

On 25 November of 2015, the Aggeu Magalhães Research Center of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation Institute reported that of the 224 suspected dengue patients whose samples were analyzed for Zika virus infection, ten were confirmed positive. Seven of the ten samples confirmed with Zika virus infection correspond to patients with neurological syndrome.

All the recent finding with Zika in recent months has prompted the UN agency to update the recommendations on surveillance of Zika virus. This includes the surveillance for neurological syndromes and congenital malformations, and also provides recommendations for the follow up of pregnant women and newborns in areas where Zika virus is circulating.