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Women in Brazil offered free fertility app to fight Zika

Ianka Mikaelle Barbosa, 18, poses for a photograph with Sophia, 18 days old, who is her second child and was born with microcephaly, at her house in Campina Grande, Brazil February 17, 2016.
Ricardo Moraes | Reuters
Ianka Mikaelle Barbosa, 18, poses for a photograph with Sophia, 18 days old, who is her second child and was born with microcephaly, at her house in Campina Grande, Brazil February 17, 2016.

Women in Brazil are to be offered free subscriptions to a fertility app in the hopes of controlling the Zika virus epidemic currently sweeping the country.

Brazil has been hardest hit in the world by Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed a public health emergency in February.

The one million free subscriptions to the Swedish app - worth over $25 million - will be offered to Brazilian women via smartphone app stores as a means of temporarily postponing pregnancy until the virus is brought under control, according to various media reports. The app – called Natural Cycles – works by identifying a woman's ovulation cycle and fertility window by tracking her period and temperature, then notifying users on the days they are and are not fertile. A recent study found the app's prediction system to be wrong only 0.05 percent of the time.


As of April 27, there were over 30 pregnant women in the U.S. currently infected with Zika, with the latest case confirmed in Connecticut, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In total, the U.S. has reported over 400 Zika infections, all travel related.

Scientists across the world have been scrambling to find some sort of immunization against the virus, which is extremely difficult to combat as the tiny mosquitoes attack both during the day and at night, and can live both in- and outdoors. As the summer rapidly approaches, concerns for a U.S. outbreak are mounting, with Zika claiming its first U.S. victim last month in Puerto Rico – a 70-year-old man who died from complications from the virus.

The Zika virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. Sexual transmission of Zika virus is also possible. Zika virus has been reported in 55 countries worldwide– 42 of those had never had any outbreaks previous to 2015.

Zika is especially dangerous for pregnant women, as it is linked to several severe birth defects transferred to the fetus - including microcephaly- a condition in which a baby is born with a small head or the head stops growing after birth. Many babies born with microcephaly do not survive the early stages of infancy, however, some children continue to live normal lives. There is no treatment for the birth defect.

Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, where a person's immune system attacks the nerves connecting the brain and spinal cord, which can lead to temporary paralysis. Unlike microcephaly, most people recover from Guillain- Barre; most common in adult males, according to the WHO.

Brazil, which only allows abortion in cases of rape, or when the mother's life is in danger or the baby will not survive, had over 1,000 confirmed cases of microcephaly by April, according to the CDC.