Speed Reads

Zika virus

The Zika virus eats away at the brain of affected infants

The Zika virus has been found in 42 countries and territories for the first time since last year, but Brazil is the hardest hit. And what doctors and researchers are finding from Brazil's outbreak is troubling. The mosquito-borne virus has been definitively linked to microcephaly, a condition in which children are born with abnormally small heads when a pregnant woman is infected, but "the scale and severity of prenatal damage by the Zika virus are far worse than past birth defects associated with microcephaly," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Scans, imaging, and autopsies show that Zika eats away at the fetal brain. It shrinks or destroys lobes that control thought, vision, and other basic functions. It prevents parts of the brain not yet formed from developing."

Public health experts have started calling the effects of the virus Congenital Zika Syndrome, to differentiate it from regular microcephaly — which typically affects 6 out of 10,000 infants in the U.S. — with the more severe problems being found in Zika babies. Some of the infected babies died during or soon after delivery, and nobody is sure about the prognosis for the children who survive. "We do anticipate there would be a spectrum of outcomes," epidemiologist Margaret Honein, part of the CDC Zika response team's pregnancy-and-birth-defects task force, tells WSJ. But long-term care for these children is expected to take significant time, energy, and heartache. You can read more at The Wall Street Journal.