Zika virus infection during pregnancy is now known to cause congenital microcephaly and severe brain defects. Colombia has been experiencing an epidemic wave of Zika infection, starting approximately in October 2015. Here we document the trends of microcephaly and severe CNS malformations in two major cities in Colombia from 2012 through 2016, tracking the epidemiologic curve from before through the major Zika epidemic so far.
Methods: The study included neural tube defects (anencephaly, spina bifida, encephalocele), holoprosencephaly, and hydrocephaly.
Results and discussion: In 2016, rates of microcephaly appeared to start increasing around May (8 months after the reported start of the Zika virus epidemic), peaking in July, and declining through December 2016 to levels close to those reported in May 2016. If these estimates are generalizable to the 2016 birth cohort in the cities of Cali and Bogota, then 121 cases of severe microcephaly associated with Zika virus epidemic would be expected in both cities and 588 cases in Colombia for 2016.
Conclusion: The occurrence of microcephaly appears to have increased nearly four-fold in two large cities in Colombia, concurrently with the reported Zika virus epidemic in the country. For other major CNS anomalies the evidence is less clear, and further studies are indicated.
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