Women In the Context of Microcephaly and Zika Virus Disease

The risk of babies born with microcephaly has raised understandable concerns among women including those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. There are many unknowns regarding the possible causes of microcephaly. Until we have more answers, there are ways that women can protect themselves from Zika infection.


Should pregnant women be concerned about Zika virus disease?


Although symptoms associated with Zika are generally mild, a possible association has been observed between the unusual rise of Zika cases and microcephaly cases in Brazil since 2015.


What is microcephaly?


Microcephaly is a condition where a baby is born with a small head or the head stops growing after birth. Microcephaly is usually a rare condition, with one baby in several thousand being born with the birth defect. If this combines with poor brain growth, babies with microcephaly can have developmental disabilities.


The most reliable way to assess whether a baby has microcephaly is to measure head circumference 24 hours after birth, compare this with WHO growth standards, and continue to measure the rate of head growth in early infancy. Brazil has reported an unusual, sudden increase in babies born with microcephaly since May 2015.

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