Photos: The Zika virus spreads

  • Jaqueline, 25, holds her five-month-old daughter Laura as her twin brother Lucas, lies in a buggy at an entrance of their house in Santos, Brazil, April 20, 2016. Among the mysteries facing doctors in Brazil battling an epidemic of the little-known Zika virus are cases of women giving birth to twins with only one suffering from microcephaly, a birth defect associated with the disease. “When I found out one of them had microcephaly the ground fell out from beneath me,” said Jaqueline.
  • A Brazilian army soldier applies insect repellent on his arm before conducting an inspection for the Aedes aegypti mosquito in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Feb., 15, 2016.
  • A Biologist works with genetically modified mosquitoes on Feb. 11, 2016 in Campinas, Brazil. Technicians from the Oxitec laboratory located in Campinas, 100km from Sao Paulo, released genetically modified mosquitoes Aedes Egypti to combat Zika virus.
  • Geovane, 32, holds his son Gustavo Henrique who is 2-months old and born with microcephaly, as they wait for a session with a physiotherapist at the Altino Ventura rehabilitation center in Recife, Brazil, Feb. 11, 2016.
  • Jackeline, 26, holds her son who is 4-months old and born with microcephaly, in front of their house in Olinda, near Recife, Brazil, Feb. 11, 2016.
  • A health worker fumigates to prevent Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika virus, at Martires 19 de Julio cemetery in the outskirts of Lima, Peru, Feb. 9, 2016. The mosquito known to spread the Zika virus lives and breeds in people’s homes and yards, making it tough to reach with sprays and often requiring labor-intensive door-to-door interventions.
  • Protected by a mosquito net, Nadia Gonzalez recovers from a bout of dengue fever at a hospital in Luque, Paraguay, Feb. 5, 2016. Dengue, like the Zika virus, is transmitted by the same vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
  • Young revelers stand around a coffin containing an Aedes aegypti mosquito puppet during the “Burial of the Mosquito” carnival block parade in Olinda, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Feb. 5, 2016. The parade that happens every year during carnival informs residents and tourists about the dangers of the Aedes aegypti and teaches them how to combat the mosquitoes.
  • Pamela De Araujo, 23, plays with her eight-week-old daughter, Catarina Gomes, who was born with microcephaly, at her home in the Rio de Janeiro’s West Zone neighbourhood of Realengo, Feb. 5, 2016. Pamela was sick with Zika during her first trimester, however her baby tested negative for the virus. She was really worried after seeing the news about the zika virus. When Catarina was born she thought she did something wrong while pregnant. Her husband works during the day and Pamela travels 1.5-2 hours one way to see a pediatrician because access to health care in the West Zone is very limited. “I’ve always been against abortion,” says Pamela, who is an Evangelical Christian. She says, if you are willing to give care and support, children with microcephaly can have a life as normal as possible.
  • Health workers inspect a used tire depot for stagnant water that could be potential hatcheries of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmits the Zika virus in Villavicencio, Colombia, Feb. 4, 2016.
  • Official personnel proceed to fumigate surroundings in Recife, Brazil, in order to combat mosquitos, Feb. 3, 2016.
  • Jannelissa Santana, who is 37 weeks pregnant, leans on a wall, next to a flyer explaining how to prevent Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses at a public hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Feb. 3, 2016.
  • An Aedes Aegypti mosquito is seen in a lab of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center (CIDEIM) in Cali, Colombia, Feb. 2, 2016.
  • David Henrique Ferreira, 5 months, who was born with microcephaly, is held by his mother Mylene Helena Ferreira as they ride the bus after a doctor’s appointment on Feb. 1, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Ferreira’s mother says she spends up to eight hours per day in transit on buses, three days per week, to visit a litany of doctors with David.
  • Alice Vitoria Gomes Bezerra, 3-months-old, who has microcephaly, is held by her mother Nadja Cristina Gomes Bezerra on January 31, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4,000 cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Zika virus outbreak is likely to spread throughout nearly all the Americas.
  • Gleyse Kelly da Silva holds her daughter Maria Giovanna, who has microcephaly, near their house in Recife, Brazil, Jan. 30, 2016. Silva hopes her daughter will not suffer any severe consequences and that she will grow up to walk, talk and play with other children. “I cannot believe it when the doctors say she will not walk,” Silva said. “I need to believe that everything will be all right.’”
  • In this Jan. 29, 2016 photo, a girl rides her bike through a flooded street in the Parque Sao Bento shantytown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • A resident looks on a health workers fumigate in an attempt to eradicate the mosquito which transmits the Zika virus on Jan. 28, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. Two two-man teams were fumigating in the city today. Health officials believe as many as 100,000 people have been exposed to the Zika virus in Recife, although most never develop symptoms.
  • Maria Rodrigues, 29, and Romero Perreira, 39, with their daughter, Veronica, 10, see their baby Maria Eduardo, who was born with a suspected Zika virus-related microcephaly, at their home in Recife, Jan. 9, 2016. The parents, who are extremely poor and live in a one-bedroom house, decided to give up the baby to relatives who have bought the baby for a visit.
  • In this Dec. 23, 2015 photo, 10-year-old Elison nurses his 2-month-old brother Jose Wesley, who was born with microcephaly, at their house in Poco Fundo, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, that it has found the strongest evidence so far of a possible link between a mosquito-borne virus and a surge of birth defects in Brazil.

of

Updated

The Zika virus continues its spread across Latin America and the Caribbean. Researchers in Brazil found evidence that suggests it’s only getting worse, evolving into a new form more likely to impair brain cells.

There’s now no doubt it’s causing catastrophic birth defects, including microcephaly – marked by a small head and brain damage that permanently disables babies. Women at all stages of pregnancy are vulnerable, and governments are struggling to fight the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread Zika and related viruses such as dengue.

Spraying isn’t enough and some countries are trying high-tech approaches such as genetically engineered mosquitoes that lay dud eggs, as well as low-tech approaches like mosquito traps and nets.

There’s no treatment and a vaccine is years away. In the meantime, the best protection is to avoid mosquito bites, with repellent, clothing and by staying inside, the experts say. 

Millions will be infected, the World Health Organization warns. Most people who get it won’t even get sick. But for the babies with birth defects and their families, years of struggle lie ahead. Here, a look at those who live with the virus every day, both fighting its spread and coping with its effects. 

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography

Speak Out