JUL 19, 2016 5:49 PM PDT

Why Is Zika Causing Microcephaly Less Often In Colombia Than Brazil?

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet

The Zika outbreak began in Brazil in late 2014 and has since torn through Latin American. Columbia is the second most affected country, yet the virus doesn't seem to be affecting Columbia in the same way.

There have been more than 1600 confirmed cases of Zika-caused microcephaly in Brazil - plus another 3000 still under investigation. Yet, in Columbia, only 13 cases of Zika-caused microcephaly have been confirmed; with only 300 under investigation. According to WHO officials, the reasons behind the statistical disparity could lie in the fact that Columbia only reports live births, whereas Brazil and other countries report both live and still births. Columbia also only has about a fourth of the population Brazil has.

Microcephaly is a birth defect in which an infant's brain did not develop properly, resulting in his or her head being significantly smaller than it should be. There is no cure for microcephaly and the infant most likely won't ever have normal brain function. The infant's life expectancy is also reduced.

Experts are still unsure whether the trimester in which a pregnant woman gets Zika matters. Brazil initially thought infections during the first trimester were most likely to cause microcephaly. Now researchers believe women in later stages of pregnancy could be affected by the virus as well.

Sources: Newsy, Cleveland Clinic
About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
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