Reed Johnson, Rogerio Jelmayer- Wallstreet Journal, 01/29/2016
RECIFE, Brazil—When they first started seeing newborns with shrunken skulls last August, Dr. Vanessa van der Linden Mota and her mother, Dr. Ana van der Linden, didn’t realize they were looking at a looming public-health disaster.
But it didn’t take long for the two neuropediatricians to start connecting the dots. The tiny heads were classic signs of microcephaly, an incurable condition associated with incomplete brain development typically caused by chromosome disorders or maternal alcohol abuse. Unusually, though, some of the infants’ heads were draped with excess skin. Others’ skulls bore calcified patches that squeezed their brains in a vise grip. Some of their limbs were crumpled and bent at odd angles. Also oddly, in 70% of the cases the two doctors were seeing, mothers reported itching or rashes during their pregnancies.
Then there was this: In a typical year, the doctors said, they might see one microcephaly case every couple of months. Suddenly, they were seeing dozens.