The Florida Department of Health has confirmed that three pregnant women have Zika after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the Zika outbreak could get worse before it gets better.
“We have, however, identified three pregnant women who traveled to countries affected by Zika and likely had Zika virus in those countries and returned without any symptoms,” stated Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong.
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency because of the Zika virus earlier this month. So far, doctors have diagnosed 32 Floridians with the virus. Officials consider three cases active infections.
Governor Scott has “requested 250 additional Zika antibody tests from the CDC” after he learned about the pregnant women. The tests allow people “to see if they ever had the Zika virus.” The majority of people who contract Zika do not experience any symptoms.
“We have made it a priority to stay ahead of the possible spread of this virus in Florida,” concluded Armstrong.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan traveled to Brazil, the epicenter of the outbreak, to meet with health officials.
“Things may get worse before they get better,” she declared at a press conference in Rio de Janeiro. “Don’t be surprised to see microcephaly reported in other parts of Brazil.”
Brazilian authorities have confirmed at least 580 cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect linked to the virus. It occurs when the brain does not form properly during pregnancy or after birth, causing small heads. Children can suffer from seizures, developmental delays, intellectual disability, and feeding problems.
Dr. Sandra Mattos found microcephaly data on 100,000 newborns since 2012 in Brazil that indicates that at least 1,600 babies born in the last four years had microcephaly or smaller-than-normal heads. “We were very, very surprised,” she said. “Borderline cases seem to be present all along.”
CBC News reports:
Brazilian authorities set the criterion for microcephaly, a measurement of head size, at 32 centimetres for full-term births. Doctors were asked to report babies at or below that level for further investigation.
Mattos said the data analysis also confirmed the number of severe microcephaly cases increased starting in October or November of 2014.
Mattos told WHO that “other potential factors need to be considered” since 80% of the microcephaly babies live in northeast Brazil.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that doctors had confirmed the presence of Zika virus in the tissue of infants who died from microcephaly.
“This is the strongest evidence to date that Zika is the cause of microcephaly,” explained CDC Director Tom Frieden. “Zika is new, and new diseases can be scary, particularly when they can affect the most vulnerable among us.”
Frieden stopped short of claiming Zika caused the microcephaly cases. He said scientists need to perform more tests to confirm an actual link.
The Czech Republic recorded its first cases of Zika after two people returned from a vacation in the Caribbean. The man and woman do not require hospitalization.
“This is not a case of an infection having spread in the Czech Republic. It is a disease brought from the areas where we recommended that people not travel,” explained Health Minister Svatopluk Nemecek.