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What is microcephaly, the rare birth defect linked to the Zika virus?

BRASILIA — The Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization's Americas arm, has warned that the Zika virus, which has been linked to a sudden rise of birth defects in Brazil, could see an "explosive" outbreak and spread to as many as four million people in the Americas, Reuters reported. Although a link between microcephaly and Zika is strongly suspected, a causal relationship has yet to be proven scientifically. There have been cases where pregnant women infected with Zika had children who did not develop microcephaly, AFP reported. Microcephaly has many potential causes, including infections, viruses, toxins or unknown genetic factors. Brazil health officials, however, after seeing a sudden increase of microcephaly cases coincide with the largest outbreak of Zika ever in the country, have suggested a link between the birth defect and the virus. According to the BBC, the number of babies born with suspected microcephaly since October in Brazil has reached nearly 4,000, compared to 150 in all of 2014. Microcephaly has no known cure. Children with the condition are born with an abnormally small brain and skull, which in the most serious cases can cause the early death of the child or even the death of the baby while he or she is still in the womb. Even if the babies survive, they will be intellectually and physically handicapped, or in the best cases suffer from psychomotor impairment, AFP reported. "There is no way to fix the problem," Hannah M. Tully, a neurologist at Seattle Children's Hospital, told the New York Times. "Just therapies to deal with the downstream consequences," she said. In response to the outbreak, Brazil has warned women in affected areas not to get pregnant. Colombia and Jamaica have advised women to delay becoming pregnant for a few months. And El Salvador has asked women to avoid getting pregnant until 2018. The U.S. and other countries including Australia are advising pregnant women not to travel to regions where Zika is present. ----------------------------------------­­--------------------- Welcome to TomoNews, where we animate the most entertaining news on the internets. Come here for an animated look at viral headlines, US news, celebrity gossip, salacious scandals, dumb criminals and much more! Subscribe now for daily news animations that will knock your socks off. Visit our official website for all the latest, uncensored videos: Check out our Android app: Check out our iOS app: Get top stories delivered to your inbox everyday: Stay connected with us here: Facebook Twitter @tomonewsus Google+ Instagram @tomonewsus

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