Spread of new coronavirus across Brazil has shut down crucial therapies for babies born with birth defects after Zika epidemic.
Back in 2015, Brazil reported a horrific a surge in birth defects. Thousands of babies were born with brain damage and abnormally small heads, a condition called microcephaly.
Scientists quickly concluded the Zika virus was the culprit. So when Zika returned last year during Brazil's summer months of December, January and February — when mosquitoes are most active — health officials expected another surge in microcephaly cases.
Just one in 10 babies exposed to the Zika virus during pregnancy get the brain damage that causes microcephaly – abnormally small heads. Now there’s a first clue about what stops this from happening in the rest – their gene activity.
Gideon was diagnosed with extensive brain damage, spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, visual impairment, epilepsy and microcephaly – that's the neurological condition also caused by the Zika virus, where the baby's head is abnormally small.
Like other neurological disorders, microcephaly runs along a spectrum and its severity can vary widely. Zika-related microcephaly is believed to be somewhat different from microcephaly caused by genetics or other factors, but the result is largely the same: mental impairment that can run from mild to devastating.
Every milestone, it was a question: Is he going to sit up, is he going to walk, is he going to talk? Every milestone, we were holding our breath waiting. And as he’s met these milestones — albeit all late, all very delayed — if I’m honest, I still hope that he’ll catch up.
With worldwide fear over mosquito-borne Zika virus and growing evidence suggesting that the infection is to blame for the surge of babies born with abnormally small heads (microcephaly) in Brazil and Argentina, it was only a matter of time before the conspiracy theories took hold.
The prediction came true on Monday, when pyriproxyfen topped trending news on Facebook, following an announcement from a group of Argentine doctors known as Médicos de Pueblos Fumigados, or Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns, suggesting the larvicide is the cause of the microcephaly surge.
Researchers now believe babies born to mothers with Zika face a 13 percent chance of being born with a smaller head size, and in some cases it may not be visible as a fetus or immediately at birth. Babies with microcephaly could end up with vision and hearing problems or experience seizures, developmental delays, and intellectual disabilities.
For parents, having a child with microcephaly can mean a life of uncertainty. The diagnosis usually comes halfway through pregnancy, if at all; the cause may never be determined — Zika virus is only suspected in the Brazilian cases, while many other factors are well documented. And no one can say what the future might hold for a particular child with microcephaly.
Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly.
Many babies born with microcephaly may demonstrate no other symptoms at birth but go on to develop epilepsy, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, hearing loss and vision problems. In some cases, children with microcephaly develop entirely normally.