Health officials believe a little-known virus spread by mosquitoes is leading to a major problem in Brazil: Thousands of cases of microcephaly, a condition where an infant has smaller than expected head size.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) of the South American country said the microcephaly problem could be linked to the Zika virus outbreak. The ministry released a report on Tuesday which shows that the microcephaly condition has been found 2,975 suspected cases of Zika virus in newborn babies. The cases have been reported in 20 Brazilian states. Until now, 40 deaths have been reported due to the problem.
The MOH said the situation is very serious because cases are increasing rapidly. Last year, the country had only 147 such cases. As per the World Health Organization, Zika virus disease is a mild condition and its symptoms remain for few days. Infected people can have symptoms like joint and muscle pain, rashes, conjunctivitis and headaches, the WHO added.
The virus could also affect newborn babies. It was the reason why the CDC earlier warned pregnant women, who are travelling to Brazil, to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Brazilian health officials have also issued an unusual advice to residents: Don't get pregnant.
Angela Rocha from Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Brazil's hardest-hit state said, “It's a very personal decision, but at this moment of uncertainty, if families can put off their pregnancy plans, that's what we're recommending”.