Infants Who Look Good at Birth May Have Problems Related to Zika virus

Zika virus remains in blood of an infected person for almost a week. Once infected, that person is likely to be protected from future infections. It might be helpful to talk with other people who have family members affected by Zika virus infections.

Infants Who Look Good at Birth May Have Problems Related to Zika virus

Zika virus remains in blood of an infected person for almost a week. Once infected, that person is likely to be protected from future infections. It might be helpful to talk with other people who have family members affected by Zika virus infections.

The Zika virus is a mosquito borne infection that mainly occurs in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Mostly it doesn’t show any symptoms, while sometimes the infection shows mild fever, rash, muscle pain, headache, red eyes etc. Zika virus infection during pregnancy is also connected with miscarriage and can cause microcephaly i.e. a fatal congenital brain disorder. Zika virus can also cause a neurological disorder like Guillain-Barre syndrome. It is also proved that infants who look good at birth may have problems related to Zika virus.

What is a Zika Virus?

Zika is that virus which a person can catch by infected Aedes mosquito bite. The alarming issue with Zika is its effect on unborn babies. In pregnant women, the virus can cause miscarriages, stillborn babies, or babies with birth defects. One serious birth defect caused by Zika is microcephaly. In microcephaly, a baby's brain and skull don't grow and develop properly, so the baby will have severe developmental problems.

Zika virus infection in women during pregnancy can cause infants to be born with several congenital malformations, known as congenital Zika syndrome. Infection with Zika virus is also associated with other complications of pregnancy including preterm birth and miscarriage. An increased risk of neurological problem is connected with Zika virus infection in babies, including Guillain-Barre syndrome, neuropathy and myelitis.

Congenital disorder i.e. congenital Zika syndrome is a distinctive pattern of birth faults found in fetuses and babies infected with Zika virus. Babies who were infected with Zika before birth may have damage to their vision and even the part of their brain that is responsible for vision. It is suggested that if your baby was born with congenital Zika infection, he/she should receive the recommended tests to check for eye and other health problems, even if your baby appears to be healthy.

Babies with congenital Zika syndrome experience challenges with sitting independently, feeding, sleeping, seizures, hearing and vision problems, like they don’t respond to the sound of a toy and don’t follow a moving object with their eyes. Hence, babies affected by Zika virus will continuously require specialized care from healthcare providers and caregivers as they age. Some infants with congenital Zika virus infection who do not have microcephaly at birth may later experience slowed head growth and develop postnatal microcephaly.

Infection with Zika during pregnancy increases the risks for several health problems in infants. Scientists are still trying to find out how Zika virus affects mothers and babies just to understand all the health problems that Zika virus may cause during pregnancy.

Several people infected with Zika virus won’t get any symptoms or can have mild symptoms. It is a fact that babies who do not show initial signs of defects may develop progressive damage. It is observed that infants who look good at birth may have problems related to Zika virus. Mostly symptoms are noticeable between 2 to 14 days after being infected. Common signs and symptoms of Zika virus are:

  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Conjunctivitis

Symptoms may last several days to a week. Only 20 percent of people infected with the Zika virus will actually become ill. It is still uncertain that at this time if pregnant women develop symptoms if infected.

Transmission process of Zika virus

Zika virus transmits through the infected mosquito’s bite. When a mosquito bites and takes out blood from any infected body, the mosquito itself got infected and then moves to bite other person. It also gets transmitted sexually, can be oral, vaginal or anal intercourse.

Zika virus can be transmitted from mother to her baby during pregnancy or around the time of birth. There is no much evidence to measure the risk to an unborn baby if the mother is infected. This virus can also be passed through blood transfusion.

Defects that can occur due to Zika virus

According to the cases handled by pediatricians, infants who look good at birth may have problems related to Zika virus.

  • Microcephaly, a birth defect where baby’s head is smaller in size than to babies of same age. A baby can develop microcephaly after birth if his/her head growth slows down or doesn’t develop. We don’t know if a newborn who is infected with Zika around the time of birth will develop microcephaly after birth.
  • Less brain tissue, with certain pattern of brain damage including calcium deposits in brain tissues. This calcium can build up and affect the working of baby’s brain.
  • Difficulty with limbs and joints movements. We all know that joint is where bones come together like knee, shoulder, hip etc. A baby who is affected is born with joint problems that makes the movement of hand and legs hard.
  • Effect on eyes which includes macular scarring. The function of macula is to provide the sharp, central vision you need for reading, driving and seeing fine details. Macular scarring happens when scar tissue forms on the macula.
  • Brain atrophy – Zika virus can result to loss of brain cells which can make the brain shrink.
  • Neural tube defects is a defect in a baby’s neural tube. It is a part of a baby’s body that later becomes the brain and spine.
  • Fetal brain disruption. Babies with this condition may be suffering from severe microcephaly, problems with the skull, extra skin on the scalp and problems with the nervous system. Baby’s nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. The nervous system helps baby move, think and feel.
  • Thin cerebral cortex and enlarged ventricles. The cerebral cortex is the thin layer of cells that covers the brain. It helps the brain in processing information. Ventricles are spaces in the brain that is filled with fluid.
  • Cerebral Palsy, a group of conditions that affects the brain which controls muscles. It cause problems with posture and balance in a baby.
  • Hearing ability gets affected from Zika virus. In this, baby can’t hear sound in one or both the ears.
  • Problems in nervous system, including epilepsy, hypotonia, tremors etc. Zika virus creates seizure. Here, whole body or any body part moves without control. Hypotonia is when baby has too little muscle tone, so have poor head control.
  • Vision problem like cataracts, coloboma etc. A cataract is a film that covers the eye’s lens and affects baby’s vision. Coloboma is when there are missing pieces of tissues in the structures that form the eye.
  • Zika virus can affect baby’s sleep pattern.
  • Low birth weight in babies i.e. baby is born having body weight less than 5 pounds.
  • Feeding problem, like difficulty in swallowing.

Treatment for Zika virus infection

There is no such effective treatment available for treating Zika virus infection. People with symptoms such as fever, rash etc. should get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice. Pregnant women who develop symptoms of Zika virus infection should consult doctor for medical attention and other clinical care. Mostly Zika virus infection gets better in 2-7 days.

Prevention for Zika virus infection

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for Zika virus. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, just avoid getting mosquito bites and take precautions when having sex.

  • Wear long-sleeved dress and long lowers covering legs. Spay the cloths with a mosquito repellent.
  • Stay away from drain containers of standing water where mosquitoes can breed.
  • If a woman gets a Zika infection or has traveled to a Zika-infected area, the couple should wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant.
  • Avoid any blood transfusion from the affected donor.
  • Don’t accept sperm from the affected donor.

Tests done for Zika virus infection

Consult your doctor if you find your baby infected or observe any symptom of Zika virus. The tests your baby might receive includes:

  • A physical examination – Pediatrician of your baby measures your baby’s weight, length, and head circumference. Your baby’s skin, head and neck, heart, lungs, abdomen, genitals, muscles, bones, and alertness and responsiveness are examined.
  • Clinical test – A doctor may take samples of your baby’s urine and blood and may also test your baby’s cerebrospinal fluid for Zika virus. It helps the doctor to decide how best to care for your baby.
  • Head ultrasound – A pediatrician may do a head ultrasound of your baby brain. Sometimes, your doctor may refer your baby to see a specialist to have more advanced pictures, like magnetic resonance images.
  • Ophthalmology test – We all know that Zika virus can cause damage to baby’s vision. An ophthalmologist may use special equipment to look carefully at your baby’s eyes to examine their structure and check for abnormalities. Your doctor may use eye drops to temporarily enlarge your baby’s pupils. This permits doctor to see inside the eyes.
  • Hearing ability test – A pediatrician may do an auditory brainstem response test. This is a special hearing test that checks the brain’s response to sound. Small, painless stickers are placed on your baby’s head and connected by wires to a computer.

Zika virus remains in blood of an infected person for almost a week. Consult your doctor immediately if you develop symptoms. Once infected, that person is likely to be protected from future infections. It might be helpful to talk with other people who have family members affected by Zika virus infections. Other people might be able to answer questions you have. Often, they can give you information about resources and share what worked for them. Talking with other people may also provide emotional support and hope for the future.

Zika virus transmits through the infected mosquito’s bite. It can create defects like microcephaly, less brain tissue, difficulty in limbs and joint movement, hearing disorder, macular scarring, brain atrophy, neural tube defects, cerebral palsy, defect in nervous system, fetal rain disruption etc. Person who develop symptoms of Zika virus infection should consult doctor for medical attention and other clinical care.

Allie Leon, Chief Fun Officer

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