Citizens of Brazil are currently facing a dangerous health crisis. In the country, health officials have already linked a fast-spreading virus to thousands of infant brain damage cases and 40 related deaths over the past year.
The local health authorities have, thus, declared a national emergency while they battle what is known as the Zika virus. This is a vector-borne (mosquito-borne) pathogen which has been found more and more of recent note.
In fact, Ann Powers—who is the acting chief of arboviral diseases with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta, GA—warns, “This is probably the largest outbreak of Zika ever recorded,” adding “There’s a lot of concern about what it means, what the implications are, and what we can potentially do for containment and control.”
Symptoms for this disease include fever, of course, as well as headaches, joint aches, rash, and vomiting. The symptoms can last a few days or as long as a week. The good news: this virus is usually acute and not deadly; it can typically be treated with rest and lots of liquids (like most other smaller viral infections).
While the virus is typically not lethal (in healthy adults), health officials in South America’s largest country believe that this virus is at the center of the rise of microcephaly cases in Brazil. This is an extremely rare condition in babies who are born with shrunken skulls because their brains are not developing. Still, microcephaly and Zika virus have not really been linked before.
According to Brazil’s Health Ministry, Zika-related microcehpaly cases reached nearly 2,800 this year, which is a surge of almost 16 percent over the previous week; the 40 deaths is nearly 50 percent more than was reported in the previous period.
But it is important to note that microcephaly can be the result of many other factors. Genetic abnormalities, for one, can result in microcephaly in gestating babies. Alcohol abuse and exposure to other toxins can also cause the condition, according to Dr. Powers.
More importantly, though, there is currently no vaccine to combat Zika so learning of the possible link can help to reduce future cases by mosquito intervention to improve infection prevention. As such, officials in Brazil have dispatched army troops and health crews to drain standing water from some areas in order to find any larvae-filled aquifers and rid the area of the dangers.