Critical to monitor babies after Zika, but how long?
WASHINGTON: More federal money finally is available to fight Zika, even as the news worsens. Babies who at first seem to have escaped the virus’ devastating hallmark defect - an abnormally small head at birth - might not be out of the woods after all. Brazilian doctors have counted a small number of babies who at birth had a normal-sized head and only later were found to have problems. They have delayed neurodevelopment. At 5 months, one could use one hand but not the other. Later on, some even developed that defect, called microcephaly.
The brain and skull weren’t growing properly after birth, instead of before. “Microcephaly is only the tip of the iceberg, only the thing we see when the baby is born,” Dr Vanessa Van der Linden, a pediatric neurologist in Recife, Brazil, told a meeting at the National Institutes of Health where she outlined a long list of Zikarelated abnormalities. To children’s health experts, the message is clear. Intense study is needed of babies born to Zika-infected mothers to learn the range of health problems they may face.
“It is just critical to evaluate the entire child. Even in the child who does not have microcephaly, that doesn’t mean no evaluation is needed,” said Dr. Catherine Spong of the NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which despite budget constraints has begun research to better understand the full range of abnormalities they may face. “Some will be apparent at birth, but likely some will not be,” Dr Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Monday. He called “the biggest unknown” what will happen to those babies who don’t have an obvious abnormality at birth.
After months of partisan bickering, Congress last week passed a budget bill that includes $1.1 billion to address the Zika crisis. It’s just over half the total emergency money that President Barack Obama requested last February. That was well before cases in US states and territories rose to more than 25,000, and well before mosquitoes started spreading the virus in Florida’s Miami-Dade County. Federal health officials said Monday they’d race the money to the researchers and state health departments that need it as soon as possible.
MIAMI BEACH: People enjoy themselves along Lincoln Road, an open air shopping space, on the day officials released the locations of the sites where Zika virus was found in trapped mosquitoes.