The Centers for Disease Control has finally confirmed what many feared about the mosquito-borne Zika virus currently making its way through much of Central America.
“It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly," CDC head Tom Frieden explained this afternoon. "We are also launching further studies to determine whether children who have microcephaly born to mothers infected by the Zika virus is the tip of the iceberg of what we could see in damaging effects on the brain and other developmental problems.”
Up until now, researchers had been unable to pinpoint a direct link between Zika, which sometimes manifests itself in infected adults with symptoms similar to dengue fever, and microcephaly, a debilitating neurological disorder that causes severe cognitive defects. Over the past few months, as more and more pregnant women infected with Zika began to give birth, the number of babies born with microcephaly began to rise dramatically.
Worry about the virus intensified earlier this year when the virus was observed being transmitted sexually. In response to the virus' spread, various governments have responded differently. Fearing the impact of a boom in babies with microcephaly, El Salvador's Deputy Health Minister strongly advised women to avoid pregnancy altogether until 2018 when the country would be better-prepared to deal with the virus.
“We’ve now confirmed what mounting evidence has suggested, affirming our early guidance to pregnant women and their partners to take steps to avoid Zika infection and to health care professionals who are talking to patients every day," Frieden said. "We are working to do everything possible to protect the American public.”