In a normal week Brazil would be expected to report 3 - perhaps 4 - cases of Microcephalic birth defects - always totalling under 200 each year. Starting in October, Brazil began to see a sharp rise in these births, and for the past five weeks the MOH has released increasingly grim epidemiological reports.
Today's update represents an increase of 381 cases microcephalic cases over the previous week, or roughly the number of cases Brazil would expect over a period of two years.
While the MOH has yet to post the full epidemiological report, earlier today the MOH held a press conference to announce the latest numbers, and has posted the following summary on their webpage, along with detailed reporting and advice on mosquito control measures.
MICROCEPHALY - On Tuesday (22), the Ministry of Health updated the microcephaly data related to infection by Zika virus. According to the new Epidemiological Bulletin have been reported 2,782 suspected cases of the disease and 40 deaths by 19 December. These cases are distributed in 618 municipalities of 20 units of the Federation.
The investigation of cases of microcephaly related to Zika virus is done in conjunction with Health managers of states and municipalities. Technical teams from the health ministry's field research are working in the states of Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Sergipe and Ceará. Currently, the movement of the Zika is confirmed by PCR with molecular biology technology. From the confirmation in a particular locality, the other diagnoses are made clinically, for medical assessment of symptoms.
The Ministry of Health trained over 11 public laboratories to perform the diagnosis of Zika. Relying on the five reference units in Brazil for this type of examination, there are already 16 centers with the knowledge to take the test. In the next two months, the technology will be transferred to 11 more laboratories, totaling 27 units prepared to analyze 400 samples a month from suspected cases of Zika across the country.
The suspected link between microcephalic birth defects and maternal infection with the virus remains unproven, but based on the available data appears a plausible explanation for the huge jump in birth defects reported in Brazil over the past few weeks.
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