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Scientists Are Bewildered By Zika’s Path Across Latin America
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Scientists Are Bewildered By Zika’s Path Across Latin America

Source: washingtonpost.com

Nearly nine months after Zika was declared a global health emergency, the virus has infected at least 650,000 people in Latin America and the Caribbean, including tens of thousands of expectant mothers.

But to the great bewilderment of scientists, the epidemic has not produced the wave of fetal deformities so widely feared when the images of misshapen infants first emerged from Brazil.

Instead, Zika has left a puzzling and distinctly uneven pattern of damage across the Americas. According to the latest U.N. figures, of the 2,175 babies born in the past year with undersize heads or other congenital neurological damage linked to Zika, more than 75 percent have been clustered in a single region: northeastern Brazil.

The pattern is so confounding that health officials and scientists have turned their attention back to northeastern ­Brazil to understand why Zika’s toll has been so much heavier there. They suspect that other, underlying causes may be to blame, such as the presence of another ­mosquito-borne virus like chikungunya or dengue. Or that environmental, genetic or immunological factors combined with Zika to put mothers in the area at greater risk.

“We don’t believe that Zika is the only cause,” Fatima Marinho, director of the noncommunicable disease department at Brazil’s Ministry of Health, said in an interview.

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