By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Ministry of Health in Brazil has confirmed that there is a link between the Zika virus, spread by the same mosquito which causes dengue fever (Aedes aegypti), and the alarming number of cases of microcephaly in newborn children. The birth defect has increased significantly this year, especially in the Northeastern part of the country.
“It is an unique situation in the global scientific research sphere,” said a release issued by the Ministry, after a newborn who later died was found to be carrying the virus. “This is the first link of a death related to the Zika virus in the world. (The virus) is similar to that of dengue fever,” stated the Ministry.
According to officials now, at the start of the summer period in Brazil, is the time to intensity actions against the mosquito. According to the director of the Communicable Disease Center, Claudio Maierovitch, 1,248 cases of suspected microcephaly cases have been reported in the country so far. In the entire year of 2014 only 147 cases were reported
The Northeastern state of Pernambuco is said to have registered almost half of those cases, 646. The state has declared a state of emergency. Officials earlier in the week went as far as suggesting that those women thinking about getting pregnant refrain from doing so at this time, but withdrew their suggestion after massive criticism from NGOs (non-governmental) and non-profit human rights groups.
“We are facing a public health emergency,” Maierovitch said, according to government news agency, Agencia Brasil. According to the director the number of those affected by the virus is likely to increase significantly with the start of the hot weather in the country.