microcephalic

Schlitzie (alternatively spelled “Schlitze” or “Shlitze”; September 10, 1901 (or c. 1892) – September 24, 1971), possibly born Simon Metz, and legally Schlitze Surtees, was an American sideshow performer and occasional actor, best known for his role in the 1932 movie Freaks and his lifelong career on the outdoor entertainment circuit as a major sideshow attraction with Barnum and Bailey, among others…

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A set of deformed stillborn piglets. One pig exhibiting hydrocephalus; a disproportionately large cranium caused by excess fluid around the brian in utero. The other pig is microcephalic and has a disproportionately small cranial cavity. In this case the small cranial cavity is a result of a birth defect called anencephaly, a condition where all, or part, of the brain and protective layer of bone is missing. The condition leaves an opening in the top of the head which can be seen in the photo. All animals, including humans, can be born with these congenital defects. The later of the three is almost always fatal.

Zika virus in Brazil: Parents of babies born with microcephaly demand answers

Brazil is facing a surging number of babies born with abnormally small heads because of a condition called microcephaly, which some researchers believe is linked to an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Pernambuco state, in the north east of Brazil, is the epicentre of the Zika outbreak, and also has more than one-third of the cases of microcephaly reported in Brazil since September. Thankfully, the number of newly reported cases here is falling. Every day about five new cases are diagnosed in the state capital Recife, compared with 18 at the peak of the crisis in late November 2015.

At the Barao de Lucena children’s hospital in Recife, a long line of mothers holding their microcephalic babies wait for hours to get an appointment. Vanessa van der Linden, one of only five child neurologists in the state, was the first doctor to notice the alarming rise in microcephaly cases last September, alerting public health authorities. The defects surged in November, when three babies were born with microcephaly on the same night at the dilapidated hospital where she works.

Van der Linden said she was shocked by the extent of the issue. “In the beginning I thought it was a new virus or a new illness, but I never expected it would affect so many and that it would become such a tragedy with so many children affected,” she said.

One of her patients is the three-month daughter of 27-year-old toll-booth worker, Gleyse Kelly da Silva, who had a rash, a light fever and a back ache for three days in April last year. Her daughter, Maria Geovana, was born in October with microcephaly. Silva still hopes her baby will learn to speak, but she is frustrated with the public health system, which has yet to provide any therapy. “I think they could help us more by bringing in more doctors, because there are so many babies and even mothers from other towns are coming here to get treatment and they are not managing to get appointments,” said Silva.

Hilda Venancio da Silva’s son Matheus was born in October with microcephaly. The 37-year-old mother of three said she had no idea that her baby would have the rare condition and felt that doctors at the hospital failed to provide more information. “It was a shock for us because no one knew how to explain it [baby’s condition] to us and no one knew what microcephaly was and what it caused. We wanted to know more about how he would develop and no one had that information to give us. We felt completely lost,” she said.

The babies, many of whom will eventually suffer convulsions, need brain stimulus therapy promptly to improve their chances of survival. As many as 12 babies have recently died in the state because of the condition. Other complications are appearing among some, including impaired vision and hearing, and badly deformed limbs. Some cannot swallow and the most critical ones have serious breathing problems, said van der Linden.

Doctors at the Oswaldo Cruz University Hospital in Recife were among the first to notice the rise in newborns with microcephaly. It became a daily routine to see mothers here looking for help for their babies. Most of them are from impoverished areas of the state where the lack of sanitation contributes to the proliferation of mosquitoes. Doctors at the hospital say there’s a clear correlation between the exposure to the Zika virus and microcephaly but are as yet unable to explain why. The only real advice to women for now: avoid getting pregnant. The World Health Organisation has stressed that any link between Zika and microcephaly remains circumstantial and is not yet proven scientifically.

Researchers have been looking at 4,180 suspected cases of microcephaly reported in Brazil since October. Officials said they had done a more intense analysis of more than 700 of those cases, confirming 270 cases and ruling out 462 others. Health officials did not detail what they found in the 462 cases that were ruled out, but many of them were just premature and undersized. The birth defect can be caused by factors such as genetics, malnutrition or drugs. Infections are also a cause — in the United States, one of the leading causes is cytomegalovirus — although Zika-like viruses have not previously been linked to microcephaly.

Brazilian officials said the babies with the defect and their mothers are being tested to see if they had been infected. Six of the 270 confirmed microcephaly cases were found to have the virus. Two were stillborn and four were live births, three of whom later died, the ministry said.

The Zika virus has arrived only recently in Brazil, but the mosquito that spreads the disease, the Aedes aegypti, is well known and an old problem for health authorities here. It’s the same mosquito that carries the virus of dengue fever and yellow fever. The army was called in to help health inspectors look for breeding grounds. It’s not easy: any container of standing water can hold eggs and larvae.

Eighteen countries and regions in the Americas have confirmed cases of Zika virus infection, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Barbados, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana and Haiti.

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Zika emergency pushes case for global cooperation

The World Health Organization’s declaration of a global health emergency in response to a growing number of birth defects or microcephalic babies in Brazil means that its 194 member states must now work together to investigate the cause of the problem. This is the fourth global health emergency declared by the WHO since the system was established in 2005, and is a way for the United Nations’ health body to force its members to act in the interests of global public health. “There are two major questions that need to be answered,” Edward Wright, a senior lecturer in medical microbiology at the University of Westminster, told Al Jazeera. “Why is the outbreak in Brazil so big, and is the possible link between Zika infection and microcephaly real?” He said the declaration on Monday would open the way for this to happen. “ It releases funds [and] releases resources so that people can study and answer these questions.” Previous emergencies were declared in 2009 to address the spread of H1N1 (swine flu), and twice in 2014 in relation to the eradication of polio and to address the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. The WHO is able to declare a global health emergency when a situation is regarded as serious, unusual or unexpected. It must also have regional or global implications and may require immediate international action. In this case, the WHO was responding to a surge in the number of suspected cases of babies born with birth defects over the past few months in northern Brazil.
RELATED: Rio Olympics ‘to go ahead’ despite Zika virus outbreak
Although it is not known exactly how many cases there have been, 4,180 suspected cases have been reported since October.  Only 270 of these have been confirmed and the cause of the birth defects is still unproven, but the WHO says it strongly suspects the Zika virus. Margaret Chan, World Health Organization director-general, said: "A coordinated international response is needed to improve surveillance.“ She said this was necessary ”[to improve] the detection of infections, congenital malformations and neurological complications, and to expedite the development of diagnostic tests and vaccines to protect people at risk, especially during pregnancy". Until they have those answers, governments in the region are stepping up fumigation and eradication programmes against the mosquito which transmits the Zika virus. They are also recommending that women delay getting pregnant where possible. The Brazilian government is also being blamed for helping to create the problem, after failing to continue an eradication programme started in the 1940s which eradicated the mosquito responsible for spreading Zika. “That mosquito had been wiped out of Brazil but the Brazilians let down their guard, the mosquito came back and created a tinderbox for which Zika was just the match,” said Amir Attaran, professor in the Faculties of Law and Medicine at the University of Ottawa. The last time the WHO declared a global health emergency, in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa which killed more than 11,300 people, it was harshly criticised for being slow and ineffective, resulting in delays that may have cost thousands of lives. Since then the WHO has made changes that, it says, make it more responsive in emergency situations, but this will be tested in its handling of the situation in Brazil and the wider Americas over the coming months.
Zika virus in Brazil: Parents of babies born with microcephaly demand answers

Brazil is facing a surging number of babies born with abnormally small heads because of a condition called microcephaly, which some researchers believe is linked to an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Pernambuco state, in the north east of Brazil, is the epicentre of the Zika outbreak, and also has more than one-third of the cases of microcephaly reported in Brazil since September. Thankfully, the number of newly reported cases here is falling. Every day about five new cases are diagnosed in the state capital Recife, compared with 18 at the peak of the crisis in late November 2015.

At the Barao de Lucena children’s hospital in Recife, a long line of mothers holding their microcephalic babies wait for hours to get an appointment. Vanessa van der Linden, one of only five child neurologists in the state, was the first doctor to notice the alarming rise in microcephaly cases last September, alerting public health authorities. The defects surged in November, when three babies were born with microcephaly on the same night at the dilapidated hospital where she works.

Van der Linden said she was shocked by the extent of the issue. “In the beginning I thought it was a new virus or a new illness, but I never expected it would affect so many and that it would become such a tragedy with so many children affected,” she said.

One of her patients is the three-month daughter of 27-year-old toll-booth worker, Gleyse Kelly da Silva, who had a rash, a light fever and a back ache for three days in April last year. Her daughter, Maria Geovana, was born in October with microcephaly. Silva still hopes her baby will learn to speak, but she is frustrated with the public health system, which has yet to provide any therapy. “I think they could help us more by bringing in more doctors, because there are so many babies and even mothers from other towns are coming here to get treatment and they are not managing to get appointments,” said Silva.

Hilda Venancio da Silva’s son Matheus was born in October with microcephaly. The 37-year-old mother of three said she had no idea that her baby would have the rare condition and felt that doctors at the hospital failed to provide more information. “It was a shock for us because no one knew how to explain it [baby’s condition] to us and no one knew what microcephaly was and what it caused. We wanted to know more about how he would develop and no one had that information to give us. We felt completely lost,” she said.

The babies, many of whom will eventually suffer convulsions, need brain stimulus therapy promptly to improve their chances of survival. As many as 12 babies have recently died in the state because of the condition. Other complications are appearing among some, including impaired vision and hearing, and badly deformed limbs. Some cannot swallow and the most critical ones have serious breathing problems, said van der Linden.

Doctors at the Oswaldo Cruz University Hospital in Recife were among the first to notice the rise in newborns with microcephaly. It became a daily routine to see mothers here looking for help for their babies. Most of them are from impoverished areas of the state where the lack of sanitation contributes to the proliferation of mosquitoes. Doctors at the hospital say there’s a clear correlation between the exposure to the Zika virus and microcephaly but are as yet unable to explain why. The only real advice to women for now: avoid getting pregnant. The World Health Organisation has stressed that any link between Zika and microcephaly remains circumstantial and is not yet proven scientifically.

Researchers have been looking at 4,180 suspected cases of microcephaly reported in Brazil since October. Officials said they had done a more intense analysis of more than 700 of those cases, confirming 270 cases and ruling out 462 others. Health officials did not detail what they found in the 462 cases that were ruled out, but many of them were just premature and undersized. The birth defect can be caused by factors such as genetics, malnutrition or drugs. Infections are also a cause — in the United States, one of the leading causes is cytomegalovirus — although Zika-like viruses have not previously been linked to microcephaly.

Brazilian officials said the babies with the defect and their mothers are being tested to see if they had been infected. Six of the 270 confirmed microcephaly cases were found to have the virus. Two were stillborn and four were live births, three of whom later died, the ministry said.

The Zika virus has arrived only recently in Brazil, but the mosquito that spreads the disease, the Aedes aegypti, is well known and an old problem for health authorities here. It’s the same mosquito that carries the virus of dengue fever and yellow fever. The army was called in to help health inspectors look for breeding grounds. It’s not easy: any container of standing water can hold eggs and larvae.

Eighteen countries and regions in the Americas have confirmed cases of Zika virus infection, including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Barbados, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana and Haiti.

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Guillain-Barre syndrome: The Other Zika Concern

Guillain-Barre syndrome: The Other Zika Concern

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#10,983 Although the primary concern right now with the Zika virus is its tentative link to microcephalic birth defects, a secondary concern has been the concurrent rise in the number of Guillain-Barre syndrome cases in French Polynesia and South and Central America following Zika’s arrival. Today, a brief overview of this rare neurological condition. Not quite 40 years ago Guillain-Barre…

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Joke Time!

‘You want to know what the scariest thing is about this crazy new Zika virus?’ said Chief of Virology and former stand-up comic Dr. Jackie Siegel Jr. to his colleagues at the CDC.

‘What?’

‘It’s the jokes, man…the jokes.  I gotta tell ya, it’s wild.  The other night I heard the first one from a hip late-night comic.  He said,  “This new Zika virus is wild.  A woman gets bit by a mosquito, she has a kid and the kid is born microcephalic.  I tell ya, this Zika virus must have been invented by some Democrat virologist so they could replenish their numbers.” Then the next night I heard the same joke only the virologist was a Republican.’

‘I heard one on ESPN only the virologist was a soccer fan.’

‘Hey, what if the virologist was one of the producers of that Downton Abbey tv show?  Now that would be funny!’

‘Or maybe the virologist who invented Zika could be the owner of a troup of traveling Carnivals!’

On and on and on came the jokes from the CDC staff and the laughter flowed like water, until finally the wise Dr. Jackie Siegel Jr. said, ‘Meeting adjourned’ and they all went to back to their rather hum-drum CDC jobs feeling just great because, after all…laughter is the best medicine.

this is one more step in the division of the world into relative safe and dangerous zones, an emerging epidemiological apartheid. The CDC has already told those Americans thinking of becoming pregnant to avoid travel to 20 Latin American and Caribbean nations.

Eventually, of course, the disease will reach these shores – at least 10 Americans have come back from overseas with the infection, and one microcephalic baby has already been born in Hawaii to a mother exposed in Brazil early in her pregnancy. But America is rich enough to avoid the worst of the mess its fossil fuel habits have helped create.