Via Thomson Reuters: Zika in Africa: Rare birth defect on the rise in Angola. Excerpt:
Emiliano Cula starts to cry as his tiny fingers, curled into a tight fist, are stretched by a physical therapist to stimulate motor control.
Born in a poor neighborhood of Angola's capital Luanda, the 10-month old boy has microcephaly, a birth defect marked by a small head and serious developmental problems. He still can't sit upright and has difficulty seeing and hearing.
"They don't know what caused it," Cula's mother Marie Boa says, sheltering under a blue umbrella from the summer rains. "The doctor said it might have been caused by a mosquito, but I don't know if that's true." The 18-year-old does not know whether her first child will ever walk or talk.
Cula is one of at least 72 babies born with microcephaly in Angola between February 2017 and May 2018, suspected victims of an emerging Zika outbreak. The cases have gone largely unreported, but an internal World Health Organization report reviewed by Reuters concluded in April that two cases of a potentially dangerous strain of Zika confirmed in early 2017, along with the microcephaly cases identified since then, provided "strong evidences" of a Zika-linked microcephaly cluster in Angola.
A lack of data and diagnostic testing along with a woefully inadequate Angolan health system has made tracking the outbreak difficult. But new findings from a research team in Portugal suggest it is the first on the African mainland involving the Asian strain of the disease.
It was the Asian strain that caused at least 3,762 cases of Zika-related birth defects, including microcephaly, in Brazil since 2015, as well as serious outbreaks in other Latin American countries. Doctors and researchers now fear it could spread from Angola to other countries on the African continent.
In an emailed response to questions, Angola's ministry of health said it had reports of 41 cases of Zika and 56 cases of microcephaly since January 2017, when it began gathering data. It was not immediately clear why the figures differed from the internal WHO report.
A lack of testing capacity means many cases of microcephaly go undetected, the ministry added, noting also that microcephaly has many causes.
"Probably not all the cases of microcephaly can be attributed to Zika," the ministry said, listing a series of other potential causes such as syphilis and rubella.
The Angolan outbreak comes at a time when world attention has moved on from Zika, and most of the more than $1 billion in U.S. funding allocated to fight the disease has been spent.
"We can't let our attention down on this," said Eve Lackritz, a physician who leads WHO's Zika task force. "We have to stay vigilant and have a sustained response."