Truth About Zika?

 The Washington Post reports that, almost nine months after Zika was declared a global health emergency, the virus has infected at least 650,000 people in Latin America and the Caribbean, including tens of thousands of expectant mothers.

But to the great bewilderment of scientists, the epidemic has not produced the wave of fetal deformities so widely feared when the images of misshapen infants first emerged from Brazil.

Instead, Zika has left a puzzling and distinctly uneven pattern of damage across the Americas. According to the latest U.N. figures, of the 2,175 babies born in the past year with undersize heads or other congenital neurological damage linked to Zika, more than 75 percent have been clustered in a single region: northeastern Brazil.

The pattern is so confounding that health officials and scientists have turned their attention back to northeastern ­Brazil to understand why Zika’s toll has been so much heavier there. They suspect that other, underlying causes may be to blame, such as the presence of another ­mosquito-borne virus like chikungunya or dengue. Or that environmental, genetic or immunological factors combined with Zika to put mothers in the area at greater risk.

 

“We don’t believe that Zika is the only cause,” Fatima Marinho, director of the noncommunicable disease department at Brazil’s Ministry of Health, said in an interview.

Brazilian officials were bracing for a flood of fetal deformities as Zika spread this year to other regions of the country, Marinho said. However, “we are not seeing a big increase.”

Researchers and health officials remain cautious about the lower-than-expected numbers. The latest studies have found more evidence than ever that the virus can inflict severe damage on the developing infant brain, some of which may not be evident until later in childhood.

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