The Zika virus, an illness that can cause babies to be born with unusually small brains is spreading throughout South America causing a public health crisis.
The story was first reported on by The Independent.
The virus is currently surging in Brazil, where 2,782 cases were found in 2015, compared with 147 cases in 2014. Of this total, 40 babies have died from the illness, and of the surviving infants, all are likely to suffer from impaired intellectual development in adulthood and require lifelong support.
What is the Zika virus? According to online sources, it was first found in a rhesus monkey in a forest in Uganda, in 1947. The frightening illness is spread by mosquitoes, and how it got to Brazil from Africa is uncertain.
One theory suggests that it could have come to South America via travelers visiting for the World Cup, but no one knows for sure.
Regardless of how it go there, the situation in Brazil is currently quite serious. It is so dire that the Ministry of Health of Brazil has declared a national public health emergency, and has given authorities and medical agencies greater flexibility to conduct investigations, in an effort to get to the bottom of the infectious spread.
Women in Brazil are not being told by the government to cease having babies, but there is a general consensus that, for the moment, planned pregnancies could be better off if put on hold until the virus is under better control.
The Zika virus causes headaches, a body rash, fever, and joint pain. A mother can obtain it and pass it to her fetus by being bitten by a mosquito infected with the virus.
In addition to spreading in Brazil, since October of 2015, the infection has been diagnosed in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Suriname and Venezuela.