State DPH Monitoring 30 Babies for Signs of Zika-Related Birth Defects

The state Department of Public Health is monitoring 30 babies in Connecticut whose mothers tested positive for Zika virus or the related Flavivirus during pregnancy, the agency announced in a release Monday.

DPH is also monitoring nine expectant mothers who tested positive for Zika or Flavivirus.

Zika is known to cause birth defects and, of the 30 babies being watched, two have confirmed Zika-related birth defects and another nine were borderline.

Dr. Raul Pino, the commissioner of the Department of Public Health, said some of the babies were born with microcephaly.

The condition, in which a baby’s head is smaller than it should be, is the most well-known condition caused by Zika. It occurs when a baby’s brain does not develop properly during pregnancy or stops growing after birth, according to DPH.

"Sometimes at birth the head circumference is not adequate at the time, but babies do develop and the concern is over when the measurements achieve what is targeted," Pino said.

"Microcephaly  can lead to children having developmental delays so not meeting their milestones can ultimately lead to intellectual disability, can lead to problems with their tone, so they can be hypertonic," Dr. Paul Lucuara, of Connecticut Children's Medical Centerm said.

Microcephaly can be isolated or can occur in combination with other birth defects and has been linked with a variety of other problems depending on how severe the condition is. Those problems include the following:

  • Seizures
  • Developmental delay, such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking)
  • Intellectual disability (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)
  • Problems with movement and balance
  • Feeding problems, such as difficulty swallowing
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision problems

Flavivirus is part of a class of viruses related to Zika that includes Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile viruses, according to the CDC.

“It is critical that we work with pediatricians to monitor these babies for signs of Microcephaly or other Zika-related birth defects throughout the first year of life because we have seen that these defects are not necessarily readily apparent at birth,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino in a release. “Any baby who has signs of Zika-related birth defects will receive further monitoring, and we will be assisting the families and pediatricians with ensuring that both baby and family receive the services and supports that they will need to address the baby’s issues.”

DPH encourages all Connecticut OB/GYNs and hospital to screen pregnant women for Zika and said 80 percent of patients never show symptoms and don’t realize they have the virus.

According to the release as of Jan. 18 DPH’s laboratory had tested 1,208 patients for Zika, including 873 pregnant patients. Of those tested, 109 tested positive, including six pregnant patients. DPH said another 44 patients, 34 of them pregnant, tested positive for Flavivirus.

The state will work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue testing and monitoring the affected patients. DPH stressed that pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant protect themselves from mosquito bites, especially if planning to travel to areas where mosquitoes have tested positive for Zika.

For more information on Zika visit the DPH website by clicking here.

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