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Brazil Blames Zika Virus for Devastating Birth Defects

Evidence is growing that Zika virus may cause a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly, which often results in mental retardation.

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, has been spreading across Latin America and the Caribbean recently. It prompted U.S. health officials to consider issuing a travel warning. Evidence shows that it may cause microcephaly in newborns, which can result in mental retardation.

 Above, Angelica Pereira, left, holds her daughter Luiza as she sits with her husband Dejailson Arruda at their home in Santa Cruz do Capibaribe, Pernambuco state, Brazil, on Dec. 23, 2015. Luiza was born in October with microcephaly. 

 

Felipe Dana / AP

More than 2,700 babies were born in Brazil with microcephaly in 2015, up from fewer than 150 in 2014. Brazil's health officials say they believe the jump is linked to a sudden outbreak of the Zika virus that infected Pereira, although international experts caution it's far too early to reach a conclusion.

Above, Dejailson Arruda holds his daughter Luiza at their house in Santa Cruz do Capibaribe on Dec. 23, 2015.

Felipe Dana / AP

Angelica Pereira, right, comforts her daughter Luiza as she waits for their appointment with a neurologist at the Mestre Vitalino Hospital in Caruaru, Pernambuco state, Brazil on Dec. 22, 2015.

Felipe Dana / AP

A neurologist measures Luiza’s head on Dec. 22. When she was born, Luiza’s head was just 11.4 inches (29 centimeters) in diameter, more than an inch (3 centimeters) below the range defined as healthy by doctors.

Felipe Dana / AP

In November, Brazilian researchers reported the Zika virus genome had been found in amniotic fluid samples from two women whose fetuses were diagnosed with microcephaly by ultrasound exams. Researchers also found the Zika virus present in brain tissue of a newborn with microcephaly.

 Above, 5-year-old Elenilson holds a notebook as he plays next to his 2-month-old brother Jose Wesley in their house in Poco Fundo, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Their mother, Solange Ferreira had never heard of microcephaly before her youngest son was diagnosed a couple of days after his birth. 

Felipe Dana / AP

10-year-old Elison carries his brother Jose Wesley in their house in Poco Fundo on Dec. 23, 2015.

Felipe Dana / AP

Elison, left, watches as his mother Solange Ferreira bathes Jose Wesley in a bucket in their house. Ferreira says Jose Wesley enjoys being in the water, she places him in the bucket several times a day to calm him. 

 

READ: U.S. Health Officials Consider Travel Warning As Zika Virus Spreads

Felipe Dana / AP

Elison carries his brother Jose Wesley.

Brazil's government wants to train more than 7,500 physical therapists, doctors and psychologists in techniques to help develop motor and language skills in infants and toddlers with microcephaly. 

Felipe Dana / AP