Microcephaly is a rare neurological disease that produces a significantly smaller head in infants, and it usually results in a brain abnormality that restricts the mental development of children. There’s no cure for the disease, and that is the reason women in Brazil are having a difficult time adjusting to the outbreak of the Zika virus. A study done in 2013 suggests that the Zika virus is the main cause of microcephaly, and according to Brazil’s Minister of Health, Sergio Cortes, the Zika virus is quickly spreading throughout the country. A recent NPR.org article interviewed one pregnant Brazilian woman, and she is concerned about her unborn child. Dr. Cortes says she is not alone. More than million people in Brazil could be infected with the virus.
The Zika virus was first discovered in Brazil in 2015, and Cortes told R7.com that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of microcephaly cases since then. From May to October of 2015 there were 150 cases, but from October to January 2016 more than 3,900 cases were reported, according to Dr. Cortes. Cortes believes the virus is transferred to humans through mosquito bites. But one study indicates the virus can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse. However, more research is needed to confirm that result.
Brazil is not the only country that has been experiencing an outbreak of the Zika virus. The virus was discovered in Africa almost 70 years ago, and it spread to Asia and then to the South Pacific. Most cases of Zika are not serious. Infected people run a high fever, break out in a rash, and have joint pain, but those symptoms usually disappear in 7 to 10 days.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning to travelers, and that warning is not just for Brazil. Colombia, El Salvador, Barbados, Ecuador, Guatemala, French Guiana, Honduras, Mexico, Martinique, Panama, Venezuela, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Cape Verde, Suriname, Guadeloupe, Bolivia, Saint Martin, Samoa, Haiti, and Guyana are also on the warning list.
There are 12 known cases of the Zika virus in the United States, but health officials expect more cases during mosquito season. The UK has three known cases, but Dr. Cortes said there are more British citizens infected, but they haven’t been reported. Health officials believe the Zika virus will be front page news in the summer of 2016. There is no known cure for the virus, and there is no known cure for microcephaly.
Dr. Cortes told dino.com that most of the cases in Brazil were in the Northern part of the country in areas where the mosquito population is out of control. But Cortes is quick to point out that all parts of Brazil are breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitos, so he expects the number of cases of microcephaly to increase in several cities and rural areas in 2016. Meanwhile, the medical National Public Radio researchers are trying to develop a vaccine that will get the Zika virus under control. Cortes is hopeful that will happen in 2016.