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Before Zika, This Was A Pregnant Woman’s Nightmare

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The Zika Virus pandemic is currently causing an epidemic of birth defects in Brazil.

Thousands of pregnant women in Brazil, Colombia, and other countries are facing the devastating realization that they have contracted the virus. With around 2 million infected people, it’s an absolute nightmare for pregnant women. It’s made even more complex by the fact that a scientific link between Zika and birth defects haven’t been proven – although international health officials strongly suspect it.

Birth defect associate with small head and incomplete brain development

And right now, there’s no cure. But there’s a race to develop a vaccine…because we’ve been through this before, and defeated it.

Before Zika, there was another virus that afflicted pregnant women and caused birth defects.

Its name?

Rubella (aka German Measles).

At its height, 50,000 pregnant women in the US were exposed in one year, resulting in over 8000 deaths and 20,000 babies born with birth defects – from loss of eyesight, hearing, and brain and heart damage. 

It’s been estimated that 1 out of every 100 babies born in Philadelphia in 1964-65 were afflicted by this terrible disease.

But then we developed a vaccine. And by vaccinating everyone, we’ve virtually eliminated birth defects caused by rubella.

It’s a vaccine that’s meant to protect the future generation. Or as some have called it, the “altruistic vaccine”.

It was so successful that many US schools for the deaf and blind had to close because there weren’t enough children to attend anymore.

Let’s just do the math. 20,000 babies in the US in 1965 were born with defects caused by rubella. It’s 2016 – so 20,000 x 51 years is…

1,020,000. One million babies were saved from birth defects – and that’s without accounting for the population increase, which would probably mean more than that.

Now that’s amazing – and why scientists are working hard to repeat this success with the Zika virus.

Sources:

Original article by NPR: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/30/464899067/before-zik...

Zika virus infographic by Vox: http://www.vox.com/2016/1/20/10795562/zika-virus-cdc-mosquitoes-birth-de...

Last updated: Nov 1, 2018