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Zika Virus Outbreak in Brazil: Infants with Suspected Microcephaly Have Eye Damage

12/11/2015 - 10h22

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CLÁUDIA COLLUCCI
FROM SÃO PAULO

Doctors in the cities of Recife (State of Pernambuco) and Salvador (State of Bahia) are investigating a series of changes in the eyes of infants born with suspected microcephaly associated with zika virus.

Glaucoma, congenital cataracts and lesions of the optic nerve and retina are among the problems found.

The suspicion is that the zika virus infection causes several injuries to brain structures - such as those that will result in microcephaly - and to the parts responsible for vision, since the eye is an extension of the brain.

Thirty cases were examined so far. In virtually all of them, the infants have some degree of vision impairment.

Only at the Altino Ventura Foundation, in Recife, 20 children have been examined. According to Liana Ventura, president of the foundation, the impairment seems to vary according to the period of pregnancy at which the mother was infected by the virus: the earlier, the higher the damage.

In December 14 and 18, the foundation will promote a joint effort of ophthalmologists to examine all infants diagnosed with microcephaly. In Pernambuco, there are 804 suspected cases.

The aim is to discard other hypothesis, as the impairment could be caused by other infections such as herpes, rubella and cytomegalovirus.

Last Wednesday (9), the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and the Health Ministry belied rumours on social networks that the zika virus was causing neurological damage in elderly and children.

Translated by JULIANA CALDERARI

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