The Zika virus has puzzled scientists for a long time. At its worst, babies are born with a terrible condition. It is called microcephaly. This means the baby is born with a head too small for its body.
It usually points to a number of other things. A baby born that way faces many challenges. A small number of the children will go on to live a normal life. Most will not. They may suffer severe brain damage. They may need lifelong care. For example, some will never be able to feed themselves.
Doctors diagnose about 25,000 babies with microcephaly every year in the U.S.
It is very hard to spot microcephaly. It is not seen in the early stages of pregnancy. Most mothers have ultrasounds around the 20th week of pregnancy. It is only about the 24th week that an ultrasound may find the condition.
Parents have little time in which to make a decision. The biggest choice is whether to have an abortion or carry the pregnancy to term. Abortion becomes illegal around the 24th week of pregnancy.
At the time of diagnosis, doctors cannot tell how damaged the fetus may be.
Doctors say that a virus usually causes microcephaly. Mosquitos can transmit the virus. But so far scientists can only associate the mosquito with the outbreak of the disease. It is too early to tell if the mosquito is the cause of t he virus. What is happening in Brazil may give doctors all the evidence they need that the mosquito is the reason for the outbreak.
In the meantime, experts urge caution. They are warning women in Zika mosquito countries not to get pregnant. And telling pregnant women to be careful where they travel.
No vaccine is available today to treat the Zika virus
Source: The New York Times January 31, 2016