By Jonathan Springston, Associate Managing Editor, AHC Media

A team of CDC epidemiologists arrived in Brazil this week to launch an extensive research project to determine if Zika virus disease is responsible for a wave of reported birth defects. While scientists theorize a connection between Zika and microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and brain, they have yet to discover definitive proof.

American and Brazilian scientists will fan across Brazil to find 100 mothers who birthed babies with microcephaly since the beginning of the Zika outbreak. Researchers will collect and test blood as well as ask questions about Zika signs during pregnancy or signs of any other potential culprit infections. Researchers will repeat the process with many other women of similar characteristics and from similar backgrounds who birthed healthy babies during the same period. The teams hope to establish definitive proof of a link between Zika and microcephaly or identify some other cause.

Meanwhile, CDC on Feb. 19 updated its interim guidelines for healthcare providers who care for infants and children with possible Zika virus infection. The guidance has been expanded to cover children up to 18 years of age.

AHC Media continues to closely monitor developments in the Zika saga. In addition to regular updates on our website, several AHC publications have taken a closer look at the virus, including the March issue of Infectious Disease Alert. The April issue of ED Management will focus closely on how hospitals and EDs should prepare to handle more patients presenting with Zika.