Last week I told you of my admiration for Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Michigan pediatrician and epidemiologist whose strong research and advocacy was able to finally bring a shining light to the problem of lead in the water supply of Flint.
Continuing with a theme, I now bring you the story of Dr. Adriana Melo of Campina Grande, Brazil.
Dr. Melo is an OB-GYN who subspecializes in Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM), the branch of obstetrics that deals with high-risk pregnancies.
She lives and works in northeast Brazil, which is less populous and more economically challenged than the southern, more well-known parts of the country (including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo).
Dr. Melo noted an uptick in the number of fetuses with small heads on ultrasound — which is the main tool used by MFM doctors to diagnose babies in utero.
How much of an uptick? A rough look at the statistics shows ONE HUNDRED times the ‘normal’ rate of babies born with microcephaly, the medical name for the condition.
Dr. Melo had a suspicion that the mothers giving birth to these babies all had a common trait: they’d all told her that they’d had the characteristic rash associated with the mosquito-borne Zika virus.