A report in the New England Journal of Medicine released yesterday, April 13, confirms for the first time that a "causal relationship exists between prenatal Zika virus infection and microcephaly and other serious brain anomalies." The finding was based on a careful review of information collected over the past year, including evidence that the virus has been found in the brain tissue, spinal fluid and amniotic fluid of babies born with microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormally small heads and severe brain defects.
In response, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, told the Associated Press, "there is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly," and that the virus also causes serious conditions such as damaging calcium buildup in the developing brain. According to AP, the confirmation of Zika causing prenatal defects will help public officials make a stronger case for preventive measures by governments and the public in combating the largely mosquito-borne virus, similar to the impact of the 1964 report by the U.S. surgeon general on the connection between smoking and lung cancer.
The CDC has so far found no documented cases of Zika infections in the United States contracted from mosquitoes in the country. Of the 350 illnesses reported as of last week, all could be traced to travel in Zika-afflicted regions outside the U.S.
For related information, including preventive measures for travelers and legal advice for meeting professionals, go to mcmag.com/zika