Because of the potential link between the ongoing Zika virus outbreak and a surge in the number of cases of congenital microcephaly, officials in Latin America have recommended that women postpone pregnancy until this association is firmly established or the outbreak subsides. However, in all these countries a large proportion of babies are still born out of unplanned pregnancies. Teenage girls are particularly at high risk, as they often lack access to preventive contraception methods, or the knowledge to use them appropriately. To gauge the magnitude of the barriers preventing the implementation of such a recommendation in Brazil, the country so far most affected by the Zika epidemic, we evaluated pregnancy rates in teenage girls, and their spatial heterogeneity in the country, in recent years (2012-2014). Nearly 20% of children born in Brazil today (~560,000 live births) are by teenage mothers. Birth incidence is far higher in the tropical and poorer northern states. However, in absolute terms most births occur in the populous southeastern states, matching to a large extent the geographic distribution of dengue (an indicator of suitable climatic and sociodemographic conditions for the circulation of Aedes mosquitoes). These findings indicate that recommendation to delay pregnancy will leave over half a million pregnant adolescents in Brazil vulnerable to infection every year if not accompanied by effective education and real access to prevention.
Wladimir J. Alonso
Institution: University of São Paulo
Department: Laboratory for Human Evolutionary and Ecological Studies
City: São Paulo
I started my research career on the evolution of biological complexity and altruism, and later performed field and lab studies on ecology and animal behavior. I've been working in global health where I pioneered the analyses of latitudinal gradients of seasonal parameters of diseases (later adopted by the US Center for Disease Control and other institutions) and the analyses that revealed that the annual vaccination of influenza is administered at the wrong time in the tropics. I teach workshops on data visualization and time-series analysis to audiences of epidemiologists, biologists, physicians and public health professionals around the world. I enjoy empowering individuals to understand complexity through data visualization and developing friendly analytical tools (e.g. www.epipoi.info). I also published papers on topics such as vaccination policies, catastrophe preparedness, evolution of colors in animals, history of science and cognitive evolution.