Mosquitos in Brazil are spreading a deadly virus that attacks the brains of unborn babies, authorities in Brazil have warned. The Zika virus is so dangerous that doctors are warning women in areas where it has been detected not to get pregnant.
“This is an unprecedented situation, unprecedented in world scientific research,” Brazil’s health ministry warned.
The warning was prompted by an autopsy that detected the Zika virus in a baby that had died of microcephaly, CNN reported. Microcephaly is a rare condition in which a baby’s brain does not develop normally in the womb. Doctors believe Zika and microcephaly are linked.
Brazil is set to host the 2016 summer Olympics, and officials in the host city of Rio de Janeiro are frantically trying to halt the spread.
“These are newborns who will require special attention their entire lives,” Angela Rocha, a pediatric infectologist at Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, told CNN. “It’s an emotional stress that just can’t be imagined. Here in Pernambuco, we’re talking about a generation of babies that’s going to be affected.”
Could Spread Elsewhere
A state of emergency was declared in six Brazilian states because 2,400 cases of microcephaly were reported in 2015, compared to 147 cases in 2014. Effects of microcephaly include babies being born with abnormally small heads, brain damage and learning disabilities. It also can lead to premature death.
The microcephaly epidemic coincided with the appearance of the Zika virus in Brazil. Zika is spread by the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito and causes cold-like symptoms in adults infected. There is currently no vaccine or cure for the Zika virus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.
The Zika virus is currently found in South America and Mexico but not in the United States, according to the CDC. Zika apparently originated in Africa but it has spread to Asia and Latin America, CNN said
Doctors believe that soccer fans attending the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the world’s largest soccer event, might have brought Zika to Brazil.
“If families can put off their pregnancy plans, that’s what we’re recommending,” Rocha told CNN.
Doctors in Brazil say that has many as 29 babies have died from microcephaly caused by Zika.
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