The Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO), Margaret Chan, has warned that Zika outbreak would likely worsen before nations infected by the mosquito-borne virus get some relief.
She made the statement on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro at the end of her two-day visit to Brazil, the country at the epicentre of the Zika crisis.
“Things may get worse before they get better.
“Don’t be surprised to see microcephaly reported in other parts of Brazil,” she said.
Chan said that though the outbreak of Zika virus had been concentrated in the northeastern part of Brazil, there is possibility of it spreading to other parts of the country.
Much remains unknown about Zika, including whether the virus actually causes microcephaly, (a condition marked by unusually small heads of the offspring of women affected by the disease that could result in developmental problems).
Chan said that scientists were still working to determine the relationship between the virus and the birth defect.
She sid that Brazil had confirmed more than 580 cases of microcephaly, and considers most of them to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.
“Brazil is investigating more than 4,100 additional suspected cases of microcephaly,’’ she said.
The DG said that after Brazil, Colombia had been hardest hit by Zika infections with the country’s health officials reporting a probable case of microcephaly possibly linked to Zika in an aborted fetus.
She said that Colombia had reported more than 37,000 cases of Zika including 6,356 in pregnant women, but was yet to have a confirmed microcephaly case linked to the virus.
“At least 34 countries, mostly in the Americas, have active Zika outbreaks and the virus is expected to spread,’’ she said.
Chan said that WHO declared the outbreak an international health emergency on Feb. 1, and cited “strongly suspected” relationship between Zika infection in pregnancy and microcephaly.
She said that scientists were also studying a potential link between Zika infection and Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological disorder that could weaken the muscles and cause paralysis.