Dr. Erin Staples, pediatrician, had rarely seen microcephaly, a birth defect were infants are born with small heads and underdeveloped brains, during her career; that is, until she visited a Brazilian hospital recently, to find three babies in a waiting room, suffering with the condition.
An expert in infectious illnesses, the doctor is now in Brazil, and leading a huge research investigation to see if there is a connection between this birth defect, and the Zika virus; an illness that has ran rapid within the country.
Also known as a disease detective, Staples and others on this the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research team hope to answer a few vital questions that have arisen around Zika and microcephaly. That is, if a female contracts the Zika virus while pregnant, does this mean her child will suffer with the birth defect? Also, is there anything that can reduce the risk around microcephaly, should a pregnant woman have Zika?
Staples believes that answering these questions will help to understand the scope and size of the Zika outbreak, as no one seems to be immune to the disease.
According to the CDC, a little over 80 Zika cases have popped up over the U.S. thus far, from travellers who have visited Brazil. There are zero known reports of individuals contracting the illness via a mosquito within the U.S.
Still, experts say that could change as soon as the temperatures rise, and those insects erupt in full force. The type of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus are often located in the southern regions of the U.S. However, thanks to air conditioning and the fact that citizens don’t live in crowded conditions across the country, the virus is expected to spread significantly slower than it has in Latin American areas. Despite this fact, many experts due believe that U.S. babies could be affected by microcephaly, if the condition is connected to Zika; which only gives public health officials limited time to understand what can be done to protect pregnant women, and their unborn children within the United States.
CNN advises that the CDC team, which consists of 16 members, will be joining health authorities in Brazil, and conducting door-to-door visits within communities in Paraiba, the region that has been hit the hardest by Zika. They aim to get blood samples from babies (from those who have microcephaly and from those who don’t), in hopes to find the root cause of the condition.
Mothers will also be asked differing questions; from the amount of seafood they ate during pregnancy (as the mercury could be the link to microcephaly); to whether they noticed Zika symptoms during their pregnancy. According to a CDC spokesperson, the team’s goal is to have results of this research, by this April.