By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – New evidence announced on Wednesday in the United States strengthens the theory put forth by the Brazilian government that the surge of microcephaly cases in the Northeastern part of the country may be caused by the Zika virus. The U.S.’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that it was able to identify the Zika virus in the brains of two newborns who died in Brazil from microcephaly.
“This is the strongest evidence to date that Zika is the cause of microcephaly,” stated CDC director, Tom Frieden on Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Frieden, however, noted that the tests on the brain tissue of the two babies born in Brazil and analyzed in a U.S. laboratory did not conclusively prove the virus causes microcephaly and that more tests were needed.
The U.S. official, however, did warn women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant to avoid going to South America. Several countries in Latin America have registered high number of pregnant women carrying babies with microcephaly and people diagnosed with the Zika virus. Late last year the Brazilian government linked the virus to the neurological disorder.
Meanwhile, Brazilian officials have confirmed the third death due to the Zika virus. A twenty-year-old woman in the Northeastern region of the country died in April of 2015 and tests results released now show that she died of respiratory complications caused by the Zika virus. The other two deaths, one of a man living in Maranhao state and another of a 16-year-old girl in the Northern state of Para, were reported late last year.
In the past few weeks the virus has made headlines around the world and officials say speculations are rampant. Rumors this week that the U.S. Olympic Committee had told sports federations to consider not going to the Olympic Games in August were quickly denied by the entity.
“The reports that the USOC has advised U.S. athletes to reconsider competing in Rio due to the Zika virus are 100 percent inaccurate. Team USA looks forward to the Games and we did not, would not and will not prevent athletes from competing for their country should they qualify,” stated the press release on the Team USA website.