Study of Zika impacts on infants shows needs for long-term planning, resources

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A little more than two years after Brazilian health authorities began to note a steep rise in microcephaly incidence among children born in areas affected by an outbreak of Zika, a study involving 19 of those children found evidence of disabilities and severe development delays that will require a range of social and medical services, a report released today says.

The report, in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, describes outcomes of 19 children who were recorded as having microcephaly at birth. Ranging from 19 months to 2 years of age at the time of the evaluations, with a median age of 22 months, findings among the children encompassed a wide array of disability and developmental delays. The recent measurements of the children’s heads during the evaluations found just 15 of the 19 significantly below standard size. That finding, and others, the authors write, indicates that the remaining four children’s head measurements  — among whom all are closer to standard measurements for their age, with one slightly above — may have originally been miscalculated. Overall, answers to questionnaires administered to their parents showed that 15 of the children had not met developmental milestones considered standard for children six months old, 13 showed evidence of hearing problems, 11 of the 19 children showed indications of seizure disorders, 11 had vision disorders, with four showing retinal abnormalities,10 had difficulties sleeping, nine had problems with eating and swallowing and eight had been hospitalized for bronchitis or pneumonia. All of the children had at least one of the above listed challenges, with 12 showing from three to five of the problems and two of the children showing all of them.

Their needs for clinical and social services, as well as their communities’ needs for resources to support those needs will be expansive, comprehensive and ongoing, the authors conclude, requiring planning in affected areas now.

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