Zika Spurs Health Warnings

The presumed link between Zika virus infection and microcephaly is prompting health advisories for pregnant women.

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For a pathogen that was virtually unknown a year ago, Zika virus' spread into the Americas (and the news cycle) has shown an epidemic in action. The arrival of the flavivirus to Latin America and the Caribbean during the last year has coincided with a notable rise in cases of microcephaly, a neurological condition which leads to developmental delays and in severe cases, death. CNN reports that since last year, Brazil has had 4,180 cases of microcephaly compared just 146 cases in 2014.

The virus had been found in a few babies born to infected mothers (80% of individuals are asymptomatically infected), but the causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly remains unproven. Despite this, many governments have recently issued travel advisories for pregnant women to avoid vacationing in endemic areas (which comprises now of at least 24 countries). Likewise, some countries that have detected Zika are recommending that women delay their pregnancies until more is known regarding the disease.

Michael Chao

Project Manager, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

I first developed an interest in bacterial pathogenesis while at Cornell University. I then earned my PhD in Biomedical and Biological Sciences from Harvard University in Eric Rubin’s laboratory, studying cell wall remodelling in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. From 2012-2015, I continued my training as a postdoctoral fellow in Matthew Waldor’s lab at Harvard Medical School, investigating the role of DNA methylation on regulating fundamental cellular processes in Vibrio cholerae.