Zika Virus Damage To Babies Go Beyond Microcephaly: Seizure-Like Activity, Painful Reflux, More Neurological Impairments Detected

By Olivia Reese, Parent Herald October 04, 07:50 am
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Microcephaly is the most obvious indicator of Zika damage. The impairments, however, also include seizure-like activity, painful reflux and neurological impairments in a baby's motor skills, memory, language and social skills, among others.
(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The damages Zika virus brings to babies are often misleading. Microcephaly, a condition where infants' heads are abnormally small, is the most obvious indicator of Zika damage. The impairments, however, go beyond that.

In some cases, babies affected with the Zika virus appear to have exceptional developmental skills. A 2-month-old infant can crawl at an age when the majority of babies cannot roll over by themselves. Another tiny baby is capable of sitting straight up when her foot is tickled, NBC News reports.

Of course, the parents of these babies are delighted. They view these behaviors as proof that the pesky virus didn't damage their child that much. Doctors, on the other hand, have the opposite reaction.

Dr. Vanessa Van der Linden, the pediatric neurologist in Recife, Brazil who was the first to identify the connection between Zika and microcephaly, said that these "milestones" are far from normal, NBC News further reported. Van der Linden stressed that these reflexes indicate the profound disarray that the virus inflicted on babies' brains.

The reflexes these babies make, which originated from the brain stem, are supposed to stop a few weeks post-birth and are similar to those instances when a newborn clutches his/her parent's finger. These reflexes should be outgrown by babies and they must learn how to behave knowingly to lead a normal life. Zika babies are often incapable of controlling these reflexes.

These Zika-affected babies squall and stiffen their limbs much like when they are startled -- only these infants aren't startled and they don't relax as what is expected after a few seconds. Their bodies remain stiff or hypertonic and they have crying periods that can last for 24 hours.

Babies with the Zika virus exhibit worse symptoms as they reach 4 months, 6 months, and a year old. Zika-affected infants can also have hearing loss, eye problems, impaired growth and other severe brain defects, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals. Zika also affects a baby's motor skills, language, memory, social skills and problem-solving, Reuters reports.

Van der Linden said that brain scans also presented seizure-like activity in Zika babies. Pain medication isn't enough for them and sometimes doctors have to prescribe epilepsy treatment to ease their plight.

Most Zika babies also have awful, painful reflux, which occurs when food and stomach acid rise to the esophagus. The reflux happens when infants are sucking the wrong way and uses the reflex instead of synchronized sucking.

Zika babies with the reflux are only capable of eating little. Van der Linden said that they usually have "delayed or impaired gastric emptying." This condition cuts their life expectancy short.

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