Zika Virus News: Worldwide Shortage Of Doctors Trained To Treat Babies With Zika-Related Defects Now A Pandemic Crisis:

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald September 02, 06:10 am

The consequences of Zika virus outbreak grow as time passes. The world is facing a shortage of doctors and medical specialists trained to treat babies with multiple Zika-related birth defects.

There is a shortage of neurologists trained to care for babies with Zika-related brain damage, particularly in rural areas, USA Today reported. Before the Zika virus outbreak, the United States is already in need of around 11 percent more neurologists than the ones currently operating in the country, according to a 2013 study from the American Academy of Neurology.

Ann Tilton, a child neurologist in New Orleans and fellow at the American Academy of Neurology, said children with Zika-related brain defects require "an incredible amount of care" from multiple medical specialists such as occupational therapists and intensive, hands-on care from physical therapists, among others.

Aside from microcephaly (a condition where babies have abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development), children affected with Zika can also have seizures and joint deformities, which makes them unable to fully use their arms and legs. Hearing loss and eye problems in babies are associated with Zika as well.

Nowadays, children with seizures usually have a three to six-month wait to have appointments with pediatric neurologists, according to Edward McCabe, who serves as the medical director of the non-profit organization March of Dimes. Seizures and developmental delays can occur in Zika-affected babies in the weeks and months post-birth even though they don't have microcephaly, Scientific American reported.

Experts found that Zika virus can remain in the babies' system two months after birth. The child displayed brain impairment by the time they turn six months, indicating that the virus stays longer in babies' bodies and causes problems to their health later on.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends regular assessments of babies exposed to the Zika virus in utero, according to Miami Herald. This involves tracking several factors such as head size, their ability to feed, and vision and hearing responses.

These things can be tracked by regular visits and comprehensive communication between doctors and parents. Doctors advised children to have nine visits to physicians in the first 15 months of their life. Low-income families with Zika-exposed babies, however, have a harder time complying with regular preventive screenings and services.

Medical care for the infants doesn't stop there. As Zika-exposed babies grow up, they have to undergo multiple health services such as speech therapy, rehab, and early intervention.

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