About this time in 2015, Brazilian public health authorities began to receive reports of an unusual number of cases of a birth defect called microcephaly in newborns. It appears that the defect, with other serious defects, is associated with some pregnant mothers contracting a Zika viral illness. This illness was passed to their fetus and seems to have caused, or at least contributed to the development, of these neurological defects.
Category: Original writing
One of the biggest unknowns about Zika viral illnesses is the number of patients who contract the disease but have a sub-clinical or asymptomatic illness. The incidence of asymptomatic Zika is critical to understanding how the illness is spread. Can an asymptomatic patient pass the virus to another person through sex? Can an asymptomatic patient infect a mosquito that bites him and infect the mosquito enough that the mosquito can transmit the virus to another human?
The headlines are shocking. The New York Times states “Zika Cases in Puerto Rico Are Skyrocketing.” Most other media outlets follow with similar ledes. Is it true? Or, is it just more lies, damn lies and statistics?
The July 27 report from the Florida Department of Health contained the news that an additional two cases of Zika viral illness are being investigated by public health authorities as non-travel related. The total for the state is now four such cases. The DoH has not confirmed if the four patients contracted their illnesses through local transmission of the virus, through sex or by some other means.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health has released the latest data concerning reported cases of microcephaly in that nation and its possible links to Zika viral illnesses. The report is titled “Microcefalia: 1.749 casos confirmados no Brasil“, and represents about 37 weeks of reports, through July 23, 2016. The country has averaged 120 new reports of the birth defect over the last nine weeks.