Zika virus and microcephaly (small brain) in Brazil

Because the number of reported cases of microcephaly (small brain) in newborn infants continues to increase nationwide, there is concern that Zika virus infection may play a role in causing this condition. In one week, the number of infants reported with this condition increased from 1,761 to 2,401. Of these, 134 were confirmed to be associated with Zika virus infection, but 102 were not. Many are still being investigated. Nineteen states, including São Paulo, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rio Grande do Sul, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Sergipe and Ceará, and the Federal District Brasilia, among others, have all reported cases.

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Advice For Travellers

There are several questions that remain to be answered before Zika virus can be identified as the cause of this condition. There is an association between the time Zika virus began to spread in Brazil and the increase in reports of microcephaly in infants, but this association may be coincidental. In addition, the increase in reported microcephaly cases may also be the result of increased reporting of the condition by physicians who became more aware of this situation. Additional research is necessary to prove the link with the virus. Nevertheless, as a precaution, women in the first trimester of pregnancy should take extra measures to avoid mosquito bites until the situation is clarified.

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