By Jeb Blount
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – A link between a form of fetal brain damage & the mosquito-born zica virus has been confirmed by Brazilian health authorities on Saturday.
The link between zica, first medically identified as a new disease half a century ago, & birth defects has never been made.
p> The virus, endemic in parts Africa, South America, Southeast Asia & some Pacific Islands, has until now been blamed for symptoms such as fever, mild headache, skin rashes, joint pain & conjunctivitis, or "red eye."
Initial analysis shows that the virus can be passed to a fetus & that the fetus is at greatest risk from the virus during the first three months of pregnancy, the statements said.
More tests & studies are needed to clarify the exact method of transmission & infection, the statement added.
A surge in recent months of babies born with microcephaly, or an unnaturally small brain, in Brazil's northeast, led authorities to suspect the virus may have more sinister effects than previously recorded, the ministry said.
Microcephalic children can suffer developmental & intellectual difficulties that limit intelligence & muscle coordination for life.
The ministry's conclusion was made after tests on the tissue of a deceased child with microcephalic symptoms by the Ivandro Chagas Institute in BelÃ©m, Brazil, one of South America's leading health institutes. There is moreover evidence that zica has contributed to the deaths of adults weakened by other diseases.
Zica is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito moreover known to carry the yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya viruses.
The ministry said that the new information means that zica has become a serious risk to public health & that Brazil must embark on an emergency program to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito to prevent the virus' spread.
Brazil has invited the Atlanta, Georgia-based U.S. Center for Disease Control to visit the country & observe research & control efforts, the health ministry said.
(Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
HealthDisease & Medical ConditionsBrazilBelÃ©m, Brazil