Updated 06:01 PM EDT, Mon, May 17, 2021

Women in Brazil Advised Against Getting Pregnant Due to Spreading Mosquito-Borne Virus Causing Brain Damage in Newborns

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Brazilian health officials are warning against pregnancy due to a new virus causing brain damage to newborn babies.

The Zika pathogen reportedly originated from mosquitoes and was first discovered in forest monkeys in Africa over 70 years ago, the Washington Post reported. The virus causes mild symptoms in most cases but can result to severe neurological complications or even death in others.

On Nov. 28, Brazil's health ministry found the Zika virus during an autopsy in a baby that had microcephaly, which is a rare condition in which infants are born with shrunken skulls, the Washington Post added. The virus was also found in the amniotic fluid of two mothers whose babies had the disease.

"This is an unprecedented situation, unprecedented in world scientific research," the country's ministry said in a statement on its website, as quoted by CNN.

This year, over 2,400 suspected cases of microcephaly have been reported in 20 Brazilian states, a spike from 147 cases in 2014, the news outlet wrote. Doctors are currently examining 29 related infant deaths.

Angela Rocha, the pediatric infectologist at Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Pernambuco, one of Brazil's hardest-hit state, said that the situation has become so alarming that they're advising women against pregnancy.

"It's a very personal decision, but at this moment of uncertainty, if families can put off their pregnancy plans, that's what we're recommending," Rocha told CNN.

She continued, "These are newborns who will require special attention their entire lives. It's an emotional stress that just can't be imagined. Here in Pernambuco, we're talking about a generation of babies that's going to be affected."

Six states have declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak of the virus, CNN further reported. More than 900 cases have been reported in the Pernambuco state alone. Doctors also said that most of the affected mothers reported experiencing Zika-like symptoms during their pregnancy's early stages, such as rash, mild fever, and heartaches.

The Zika virus was primarily concentrated in northeastern Brazil, but numerous cases of microcephaly have now been identified in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to the south, the news outlet noted. Some doctors believe that tourists from Asia or the South Pacific introduced the virus to Brazil during the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil has been trying to contain the virus for months through both public and education campaigns, the Washington Post wrote. Residents have been using insect repellent and limiting their time outdoors. The health ministry also said that it was sending truckloads of larvicide to northeastern and southeastern states affected with the virus, and that it will add 266,000 new community health officials for house calls.

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