What You Need to Know About the Virus That Causes Shrinking Heads Among Newborns

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Brazil is currently dealing with a virus outbreak caused by what is called as the Zika virus. It started in Africa and reached South America. Just recently, it was reported to have found its way to US soil as well.

In 2015, thousands of newborns in Brazil were born with shrunken heads and possibly debilitating brain damage. The country had to deal with around 3,000 cases, 20 times more than the cases in 2014, of this incurable microcephaly, a condition characterized by shrunken brains. Those who are affected by the condition may need lifelong care.

The virus was detected in Brazil in 2014, coincidentally after the country hosted the World Cup. The country reported 147 new cases within that year alone. However, this figure went up drastically in 2015 as there were 2,782 cases recorded, 40 of which resulted in death.

As of October 2015, cases caused by the Zika virus have been reported in Columbia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Paraguay, Mexico, Suriname, Panama, Venezuela, and Brazil. This 2016, the infection was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have reached the US. The patient was a traveler from Texas who recently visited the Latin America.

Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947. In 2007, it was only reported to have caused sporadic cases and small outbreaks in Southeast Asia and South Africa. During this time, the condition was never linked to microcephaly, although this could also be due to the lack of information about the disease.

Transmission and Symptoms

No one is certain how the virus reached South America, but one thing for sure is that Aedes mosquitos aid in their transmission.

People who are infected may experience rash, headache, fever, conjunctivitis or pink eye, and joint pain.

Zika Virus and Pregnancy

Due to the outbreak, the Brazilian government even issued a warning to women to postpone their plans of conception until the virus outbreak is contained.

Pregnant women are advised to cover themselves up as much as possible and to always apply insect repellent. This is especially important to expectant mothers in their third trimester, who are considered to be most at risk of contracting the virus.

Experts have suspected that it is possible for Zika to have always caused microcephaly, although the small numbers of cases associating the infection with the condition could have been missed.

Or, it could be that the virus has evolved and changed its method of infection and replication to affect the fetus.

Investigations are still conducted about the Zika virus for governments to find solutions on how to contain the outbreak.

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