Is Zika virus causing an increase in microcephaly (small brains) in newborn infants in Brazil?

In the last 5 years, there has been an annual average of 156 cases of a condition called microcephaly or small brain in newborn infants nationwide. However, this year, there have been 1,248 cases of this condition reported by 311 municipalities in 14 of the 27 Brazilian states. There are concerns that the rapid spread of Zika virus may be responsible since the spread of this virus following its introduction in Brazil coincides with the places that are reporting this condition. In addition, the virus has been found in pregnant women, including samples of amniotic fluid. Whether infection by Zika virus during early pregnancy causes microcephaly or is just a coincidental finding is still uncertain until further research is completed.

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Advice For Travellers

There is a wide variety of conditions that cause abnormal growth of the brain (microcephaly). Although infection with the Zika virus has not been conclusively proven to cause microcephaly in newborns, there is concern that this virus may be involved. As a precautionary measure and until more research is available, women who are in the first trimester of their pregnancy should strictly follow all the precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

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