Zika virus is known for causing microcephaly, a congenital condition where babies have abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development. Aside from microcephaly and other serious health issues, doctors warned that Zika can also cause hearing loss in infected infants.
A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Zika-infected babies being treated at the Hospital Agamenon Magalhaes in Recife, Brazil (the virus outbreak's point of origin) display hearing loss. Six percent out of 69 Zika-infected infants with severe microcephaly have hearing problems. The babies were born between November 2015 and May 2016, USA Today reported.
James Bale, Jr., professor of pediatric neurology at the University of Utah School of Medicine, wasn't a part of CDC's study but said that the babies' hearing loss due to the Zika virus can be permanent. Children with this problem need a host of health services for deaf people and those with auditory deficits such as hearing and speech therapy, surgically implanted devices, and hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Authors of CDC's study recommended babies with suspected Zika virus infection to undergo hearing tests even though their birth screenings didn't detect any problems. Hearing loss caused by other viruses can be delayed and by the time of their detection, the problem has already worsened. Other viruses that can cause hearing loss are rubella or German measles, syphilis, genital herpes, and a herpes virus called cytomegalovirus.
Researchers added that babies infected with Zika can be born without microcephaly, but with hearing loss, NBC News reported. Those auditory deficits can present themselves at birth or later on in a baby's life.
Majority of adults infected with the Zika virus only exhibit mild symptoms or don't show them at all, according to the CDC. The most common symptoms of the virus are fever, joint pain, rash, conjunctivitis or red eyes, headache, and muscle pain. A blood or urine test can confirm if a person is infected with Zika.
Aside from microcephaly and hearing loss, babies infected with the Zika virus can also have eye defects and impaired growth, the CDC added. The Zika outbreak has already reached Florida in the United States, and in numerous countries and territories in the Americas such as Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Peru.
Just recently, it was reported that the Zika virus can remain in the blood of an infected baby for more than two months, according to a separate article from USA Today. This prompted concerns that the virus can continue damaging an infant's brain post-birth.
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