Rio de Janeiro, which will be the host of the 2016 Olympic Games, is one of the areas in Brazil where the Zika virus has been found, and local officials have been aggressive about trying to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Brazilian health authorities are sounding the alarm about a mosquito-borne virus that they believe may be the cause of thousands of infants being born with damaged brains.
The pathogen, known as Zika and first discovered in forest monkeys in Africa over 70 years ago, is the new West Nile — a virus that causes mild symptoms in most but can lead to serious neurological complications or even death in others. Brazil’s health ministry said on Nov. 28 that it had found the Zika virus in a baby with microcephaly — a rare condition in which infants are born with shrunken skulls — during an autopsy after the child died. The virus was also found in the amniotic fluid of two mothers whose babies had the condition.
“This is an unprecedented situation, unprecedented in world scientific research,” the ministry said in a statement on its website, according to CNN.