Suspected microcephaly cases in Brazil rise to 3,893
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP):
The suspected number of cases of microcephaly, a rare brain defect in babies, continues to rise in Brazil, reaching 3,893 since authorities began investigating the surge in October, health ministry officials said Wednesday.
Fewer than 150 cases of microcephaly were seen in the country in all of 2014. Brazil's health
officials say they are convinced that the jump is linked to a sudden outbreak of the Zika virus (ZIKV), a mosquito-borne disease similar to dengue, though the mechanics of how the virus might affect babies remain murky.
Infants with microcephaly have smaller than normal heads and their brains do not develop properly. Many foetuses with the condition are miscarried, and many others die during birth or shortly after. Those who survive tend to suffer from developmental and health problems.
The ministry's emergency response official, Wanderson Oliveira, said at a news conference in Brasilia on Wednesday that the reported cases are being investigated to determine whether they are really cases of microcephaly. He stressed that the situation is very much in flux and "will change every day".
Another official, Claudio Maierovitch, who heads the ministry's transmissible disease department, said officials are learning quickly about microcephaly and Zika, but much still remains unknown.
"With Zika, it's all new," he said, adding that Wednesday's announcement that the virus had been detected in the placenta of a woman who miscarried in the first trimester was one more piece of the puzzle. The announcement was made by the Fiocruz research institute's branch in the southern state of Parana.