Microcephaly Found in Babies of Zika-Infected Mothers Months After Birth

by duponts00 on December 16, 2016 - 11:08pm


The outbreak of the Zika virus had the nation in shock when it reached the United States.  However, Zika took a break from making headlines until recently.  The New York Times published an aticle about a study of 13 Brazilian babies that were born to mothers infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy who showed no signs of microcephaly at birth, which is a major indicator of brain damage resulting from the virus.  According to this study that was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 11 out of 13 of the babies developed microcephaly less than a year later.  This is news that doctors and families feared the most.  Microcephaly occurs when the brain stops growing in proportion to the body.  At birth, this group of babies had heads that were small, but not small enough to be considered microcephaly.  Brain scans that were performed on these babies revealed significant abnormalities including symptoms similar to cerebral palsy such as epileptic seizures, difficulty swallowing, and muscle/joint problems, and inability to move their hands.  This array of complications in relation to Zika infected babies is known as congenital Zika syndrome.  The area of the brain that is affected most by the damage are associated with motor skill and not vision, therefore, these babies are able to make eye contact and use social smiles. Though the babies in these studies are too young to be examined for deficits in speech and too young to make generalizations about the disease, they still exhibit deficits associated with neurological damage.  Almost half (six) of the mothers reported that they had a rash between months 2 and 5 during their pregnancy.  With more research, doctors will be able to determine whether or not babies experience more serious effects of the virus if their mothers were infected late in the first trimester.  I chose to write about Zika because I hadn’t heard about it in a few months.  Everyone talked about Zika during the summer, especially with the Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  After it got cooler and the mosquitoes started to die down, no one mentioned the virus.  I knew Zika was something I never wanted to contract, however, I never stopped to think about what life is like for people who are directly impacted by the Zika virus, like these babies mentioned in this particular study.  After reading this article, I am very fortunate not to be infected because children born into this have a much harder battle than I do. This article generated many thought provoking questions for me.  Will these babies be able to grow to become adults and live long lives, or will the brain damage be so severe that they do not live past a certain age?  Will the mothers have any risks giving birth to other children?  Will those children have any chance of developing microcephaly if their siblings have it?  Do the muscle complications worsen for these children like they do for people with muscular dystrophy?  Only in due time and with more research will scientists be able to determine the answers.



Thanks for this article, Siobhan! I agree that Zika has fallen from the news (election craziness I think) and needs to be brought back. I was planning a trip to the Caribbean over the March break but after seeing a level 2 alert for ALL of the islands I decided not to chance it. You posed good questions and unfortunately the answers to many are an unknown. Here is a very up to date CDC website on everything Zika.
I pose another question. The risk of severe illness from a Zika infection to someone not considering pregnancy (I'm 60 years old so that's a given for me) is low. However if I get infected I run the risk of bringing zika back to my area and causing the spread. Is it ethical for me to run that risk and travel where ever I feel like it? Thoughts?

This does really change the perfection of pika that I had. I didn’t know that a baby who at birth did not have microcephaly could later develop it. I can’t imagine the relief of a mother finding out that her newborn baby is healthy, and then the despair when she realizes that her worst nightmare could come true a year later. I’m really glad you decided to write about Zika! I feel like our media outlets only keep up updated when headlines are sensationalized enough to keep us frightened and coming back for more. My parents are trying to pick a vacation spot in the coming months and so we’re researching which areas are affected by Zika and which ones aren’t. I feel like my parent’s aren’t as concerned as I am because news coverage of Zika has died down. I’m still very concerned because it’s such a new virus that we just don’t know very much about yet. I wish the media still covered Zika because even if it’s not always relevant to us, there are underdeveloped countries in this world that are finding themselves consumed by this disease that affects what many consider a fundamental human experience: childbearing and raising. Your article really highlights how important it is that we do our own research instead of assuming that everything is fine. As more research comes out about Zika, I wonder what changes we’ll see in the birthrate and school achievement of these countries. As someone who wants to work with children with communication disorders, I can only hope that these countries have the resources necessary to accommodate the special needs that these children and their families will have.

Edit: Oh, I forgot to add in this article I found about what life is like for infants who develop microcephaly. The condition exists as a spectrum and some have fewer complications from microcephaly and can lead full lives. About 15% of people with microcephaly have no intellectual disabilities! But those with microcephaly linked to Zika often face far worse problems. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/02/02/what-its-l...

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