Badly Needed: Thorough Monitoring as Threat of Zika Virus Stays Beyond Birth, Brazilian Scientists Say

By Collie Lane, Parent Herald October 04, 06:02 am
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Healthy newborn babies may still have the possibility of being infected by Zika virus as symptoms of the mosquito-borne disease may come out later.
(Photo : frankieleon/flickr)

For families in places infected by Zika virus, the birth of a seemingly healthy infant does not guarantee the child is not affected by the Zika virus, according to scientists from Brazil. This likelihood is stressing a necessity to improve the tracking of the development and well-being of newborns that might have been exposed to the virus when in the womb.

In a report posted in the New England Journal of Medicine last August, Brazilian scientists reported a baby, whose mom was exposed to Zika virus at the later part of pregnancy, which has usually been thought of as a less susceptible time. The baby did not manifest any marks of development issues, although the virus was still detected in his serum, saliva and urine after two months of delivery. It was only after six months that he displayed neuropsychomotor developmental delay with global hypertonia and spastic hemiplegia, with the right dominant side more severely affected.

By which the Brazilian scientists suggest that the Zika virus can stay longer in the body system of a baby and trigger health issues later on than formerly supposed. "There's not that much long-term follow-up with the Zika infection. This provides insight into the fact that risk doesn't disappear with delivery," Martha Rac, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, shared via Kaiser Health News.

"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," Dr. Catherine Spong of the NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development also said to abcNEWS. The report underscores that deep study is required for infants born to Zika-exposed moms in order to know the extent of health issues the babies might face.

Now when asked how long will the Zika-exposed babies be required to be examined for health issues, Dr. Sprong told ABCNews: "I can't say at this moment in time how long do we need to follow these children, because this is new for us." She added, "It's just essential to be able to come up with what these answers are, to be able to help women and families know."

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