To describe aspects of the microcephaly epidemic in the state of Piauí.
All cases of congenital microcephaly confirmed in the state between 2015 and 2016 were included (n=100). Investigation forms of the Regional Reference Center for Microcephaly were reviewed. Discarded cases (n=63) were used as a comparison group.
In October, November, and December 2015 incidence rates reached 4.46, 6.33 and 3.86/1000 live births, respectively; 44 cases were reported in the state capital. Among the mothers of confirmed and discarded cases, the frequency of skin rash during pregnancy was 50/97 (51.5%) and 8/51 (15.7%), respectively (p<0.001); 33 confirmed cases (35.9%) had a head circumference z-score between -2 and -3, 23 (25%) between -3 and -4, and 8 (8.7%) had a z-score of less than -4. Head computer tomography scans revealed calcifications in 78/95 (82.1%) cases. Lissencephaly, hydrocephalus and agenesis of the corpus callosum were also frequently observed. Ophthalmic findings included retinal pigment epithelium rarefaction and atrophy. Absence of otoacoustic emissions was observed in 21/70 cases. One newborn also presented lower limb muscle atrophy. There were no significant differences in vaccination rates for influenza, diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis, and hepatitis B in either group.
The state of Piauí, like others in the northeastern region, faced an epidemic of congenital microcephaly between 2015 and 2016, presumably related to congenital Zika virus infection, more intense in the capital. Current challenges include the improvement of vector control, basic research, scaling-up of diagnostic tools for pre-natal screening of Zika virus, vaccines, and health care for affected children.