Zika-caused birth de­fect may be­come clear only af­ter birth

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS -

NEW YORK >> Re­searchers say a se­vere birth de­fect caused by Zika in­fec­tion may not be ap­par­ent at birth but de­velop months af­ter­ward, fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion that the virus can cause un­seen dam­age to de­vel­op­ing ba­bies.

The find­ings come from a study of 13 Brazil­ian ba­bies whose heads all ap­peared nor­mal at birth but then grew much more slowly than nor­mal.

Most peo­ple in­fected with Zika never de­velop symp­toms, but in­fec­tion dur­ing preg­nancy can cause dev­as­tat­ing birth de­fects, in­clud­ing mi­cro­cephaly, in which a baby’s skull is much smaller than ex­pected be­cause the brain hasn’t de­vel­oped prop­erly.

Mi­cro­cephaly is di­ag­nosed based on a mea­sure­ment of the baby’s head cir­cum­fer­ence. It can be done dur­ing preg­nancy us­ing ul­tra­sound, or af­ter the baby is born. Doc­tors then com­pare the mea­sure­ment to stan­dard sizes of other kids, based on gen­der and age.

The study focused on 13 ba­bies born in Brazil late last year and ear­lier this year. All had head heads that were a lit­tle small at birth, but within the nor­mal range. Over the next five to 12 months, doc­tors noted their heads weren’t grow­ing at nor­mal rates. Eleven were even­tu­ally di­ag­nosed with mi­cro­cephaly.

Many of the chil­dren also de­vel­oped other prob­lems that have been linked to Zika, in­clud­ing epilepsy, prob­lems swal­low­ing, mus­cle weak­ness and in­flex­i­ble joints.

Dr. Peter Salama, chief of emer­gen­cies at the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, told re­porters in Geneva on Tues­day that un­der­stand­ing of the com­pli­ca­tions from Zika con­tin­ues to evolve. “We are also learn­ing lot ev­ery day,” he said.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion re­leased the find­ings Tues­day. The au­thors were a team of re­searchers from Brazil and the United States.

“This is cer­tainly the first de­tailed de­scrip­tion of these kinds of cases,” said Dr. Ganesh­waran Mochida, a pe­di­atric neurologist at Bos­ton Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal.

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