Q&A: Mosquitos, Zika virus and microcephaly in Brazil

mosquito-Thriving

As you may have heard, Brazil is facing a startling outbreak of microcephaly, a rare condition in which a child is born with a head and brain that are much smaller than normal. Microcephaly is almost always associated with neurologic impairment and can be life-threatening.

The epidemic has been linked to an influx of the mosquito-borne virus Zika, first detected in Brazil last April. This past Friday, January 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued travel warnings advising pregnant women to avoid visiting El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. And over the weekend, the first U.S. case of microcephaly linked to Zika reportedly surfaced in Hawaii.

Why this virus, why now? And how can a virus affect someone’s head size? In this Q&A on our sister blog, Thriving, Ganeshwaran Mochida, MD, of Boston Children’s Brain Development and Genetics (BrDG) Clinic, who specializes in microcephaly, and Asim Ahmed, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Boston Children’s, offer their insights.