The number of suspected cases of microcephaly in newborns in eight states in the Northeast and Goiás reached 739 this year, according to data from the Ministry of Health. These northeastern states have seen a significant increase in the number of cases of the disorder from previous years. The report from Goiás state was the first outside the region. Last year, the number of cases totaled 147 across the country.
Among the cases this year, a death has been brought under investigation which may have been related to microcephaly, the ministry said.
Health Minister Marcelo Castro said that, ever since the increase in microcephaly cases started being documented, researchers have considered a possible connection between the disease and infection with the Zika virus, transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, better known for spreading dengue fever.
“What researchers are saying is that we can be 90% sure that that it's really Zika. Some researchers bring it up to 99.5%. If there were international literature that could serve as basis to us, there would be no problem. The problem is that everything happening in Brazil is unprecedented. There isn't a single case of Zika epidemic or outbreak of microcephaly anywhere in the world as it's been taking place in Brazil,” he added.
According to the minister, the hypothesis has been supported by studies conducted by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz). Laboratory examinations have found the genome of the Zika virus in the amniotic fluid of two pregnant women from Paraíba whose fetuses had been diagnosed with microcephaly through ultrasound.
The Health Ministry is currently investigating the rise in the number of babies born with microcephaly in cooperation with health secretariats at state and municipal levels as well as other national and international agencies. The ministry has recently declared state of public health emergency countrywide in a bid to accelerate probes into the issue.
Microcephaly is a congenital malformation in which the development of the brain is compromised. Babies are born with a smaller head circumference than normal (usually over 33 cm).
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira
Fonte: Brazil reports 739 suspected microcephaly cases in nine states