A not-so-new mosquito-borne virus, Zika virus, is being linked to congenital brain deformity in South America and the Carribean.
Zika virus was first isolated in 1947 in the Zika forest in Uganda in a rhesus monkey and was isolated from humans for the first time, in NIGERIA (in 1968).
The symptoms of Zika fever are pretty mild but doctors in Brazil are investigating links between the virus and a sudden rise in the number of babies born with microcephaly, or underdeveloped brains and skulls.
As at Tuesday, the Brazilian health ministry confirmed almost 400 cases of new-borns with abnormally small heads (microcephaly) in the north-east of Brazil; in the state of Pernambuco, the number rose from an annual average of 10 to 268.
Microcephaly, which often causes cognitive or developmental problems, is diagnosed when a baby’s head measures less than 33cm in circumference, compared to the normal 33-38cm.
While the cause of the increase has not yet been established, Fiocruz, a Brazilian scientific institute, said that the Zika virus had been found in the amniotic fluid of two pregnant women whose foetuses had been diagnosed with microcephaly--and it was the same with around 80 per cent of the mothers whose babies had microcephaly.
Last week, Brazil declared a nationwide public health emergency to dedicate resources to investigating the causes of the rise.
The disease is currently on the W.H.O disease outbreak list, so we should be vigilant of its spread to Nigeria.
Protection against mosquito bites and vector (mosquitoes) control is currently the best method of prevention.
At the moment, there is no vaccine or specific treatment for Zika, and symptoms normally include a mild fever of under 38.5C, a rash and headache, lasting for up to a week. Painkillers and drugs to alleviate the fever are normally prescribed.