CDC Reports Link Between Zika Virus, Microcephaly
Germ found in tissues of 2 Brazilian babies who died from the birth defect marked by undersized heads, brains
By Dennis Thompson
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 10, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Traces of the Zika virus have been identified in the tissue of two babies who died in Brazil from a birth defect marked by underdeveloped heads and brains, U.S. health officials said Wednesday.
The discovery doesn't prove the Zika virus is the cause of thousands of cases of microcephaly in Brazilian babies since the spring. But, it's the firmest connection yet that the mosquito-borne pathogen may be to blame, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a Congressional panel, USA Today reported.
"This is the strongest evidence to date that Zika is the cause of microcephaly," Frieden told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But, he added, more tests are needed to confirm that the Zika virus is the cause of the birth defect.
Frieden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared before the panel to lobby on behalf of President Barack Obama's request for $1.8 billion in emergency funds from Congress to combat the threat of Zika virus.
The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947, and until last year was not thought to pose serious health risks. In fact, approximately 80 percent of people who become infected never experience symptoms.
But the increase of cases and birth defects in Brazil in the past year -- suspected to exceed more than 4,100, making that nation the epicenter of the epidemic -- has prompted health officials to warn pregnant women or those thinking of becoming pregnant to take precautions or consider delaying pregnancy.
And the CDC is recommending that pregnant women avoid the regions of Central and South America and the Caribbean, where Zika virus has been identified and officials have described it as spreading "explosively."
On Thursday, it was reported that two American women who had contracted the Zika virus while traveling abroad had miscarried after returning home. The virus was found in their placentas, according to a CDC spokesman, the Washington Post reported.