Disturbing new data concerning the Zika infections states that children born with normal-sized heads could also develop microcephaly five months to a year after being born. This new perspective on the virus changes the scientific approach, which was mostly focused on prenatal concerns.
The data, published Nov. 22, in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, documents the cases of a small group of Brazilian babies who were born with normal-sized heads, but still developed microcephaly after birth.
Microcephaly — Not A Full Proof Indicator Of Zika
According to the report, infants who weren't born with microcephaly could experience brain abnormalities, such as severe neurological damage, decreased brain volume or tissue with calcium deposits suggesting permanent damage, brain structures filled with fluid and a series of other complications that are not visible in the uterus.
Some of the cases did show brain abnormalities in ultrasound exams during the pregnancy, while others showed no unusual activity, and the issues were only discovered through CT scans and MRIs conducted after birth.
"Despite the absence of microcephaly at birth, the 13 infants in this report with laboratory evidence of Zika virus infection had brain abnormalities associated with congenital Zika syndrome, including ventriculomegaly and decreased brain volume, cortical malformations and subcortical calcifications, underscoring the importance of neuroimaging in evaluating these infants," stated the report.
Congenital Zika Syndrome — Manifested After Birth
Because the patients were found in Brazil, a different pattern of birth defects is now officially documented, and it was named congenital Zika syndrome. Representatives of the CDC explained that these findings underline how crucial it is for women to take all the necessary precautions during pregnancy, including screening and followups in cases when women were exposed to the virus while pregnant.
Consequently, even children who are born with normal-sized heads should be under observation for the first year of their lives, in order to avoid any potential effects due to the mother's contamination with the virus.
It is also very important to invest in awareness. Informing future mothers that a child born with a normal-sized head is not necessarily out of danger is one of the basic informational pillars on the virus.
Researchers haven't yet discovered the exact process through which the virus manages to transform into a syndrome and affect babies neurologically after they are born. More extensive research is needed in order to confirm any hypothesis, as well as the types of effects that occur in children who have these symptoms before and after being born. The infants tested in this CDC report were too young to be examined for cognitive deficiencies.