(Rio de Janeiro (CNN)) – Brazilian health officials are dishing out some unusual advice these days: Don’t get pregnant.
That’s the message for would-be parents, especially in the country’s northeast, after officials linked a mosquito-borne virus called Zika to a surge in newborn microcephaly, a neurological disorder that can result in incomplete brain development.
“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,” Angela Rocha, the pediatric infectologist at Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Brazil’s hardest-hit state, told CNN.
Behind Brazil’s outbreak
More than 2,400 suspected cases of microcephaly have been reported this year in 20 Brazilian states, compared with 147 cases last year. Doctors are investigating 29 related infant deaths.
Microcephaly results in babies being born with abnormally small heads that cause, often serious, developmental issues and sometimes early death.
As a result, six states have declared a state of emergency. In Pernambuco state alone, more than 900 cases have been reported.
“These are newborns who will require special attention their entire lives. It’s an emotional stress that just can’t be imagined,” Rocha said. “Here in Pernambuco, we’re talking about a generation of babies that’s going to be affected.”
When the cases of microcephaly started to soar last month, doctors noticed they coincided with the appearance of the Zika virus in Brazil. They soon discovered that most of the affected mothers reported having Zika-like symptoms during early pregnancy — mild fever, rash and headaches.
On November 28, Brazil’s Health Ministry announced that during an autopsy it had found the Zika virus in a baby born with microcephaly, establishing a link between the two. Go to CNN for the whole story.