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What I Need to Know About the Zika Virus and Birth Defects

March 6, 2020

You’ve probably heard about the Zika virus on the news, and while this virus hasn’t risen to a national health risk, it’s wise for prospective parents to take proactive steps in prenatal screening. The Zika virus has been linked to microcephaly, which is a birth defect. The baby’s head is smaller compared to babies of the same sex and age. In addition, babies with microcephaly frequently have smaller brains that may not properly develop.

Let’s look at some important information about the Zika virus and microcephaly.

What is the Zika Virus?

The Zika virus is a disease that’s caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite during the day. The symptoms are typically mild and include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, or headache. These symptoms typically last for a couple of days.

A person can also contract the Zika virus through sex from a person who has Zika, even if the sex partner doesn’t don’t present any of the symptoms.

But back to the bugs. These pesky Aedes mosquitoes can be found in many areas in the U.S.  Because of this, there is risk of contracting the Zika virus.

What Happens with the Zika Virus During Pregnancy?

The Zika virus can be given to a fetus from a pregnant woman infected by the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) research found connection between pregnant women who contracted the Zika virus and their newborn babies with microcephaly.

If you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t travel to areas experiencing a Zika outbreak. Pregnant women and those considering pregnancy should consult with their doctors about such a trip and possible consequences of travel.

Unfortunately, we still don’t know how likely it is that a Zika infection will affect an expectant woman’s pregnancy, and whether a baby will have birth defects if the pregnant mother is infected.

Scientists have yet to understand the full range of health effects of Zika during pregnancy.

Are There Other Causes of Microcephaly?

Pregnant women and those considering pregnancy should know there are other causes of microcephaly, and that all causes of microcephaly haven’t been clearly determined. In some instances, the cause of the disease can’t be identified. Known causes include:

  • Viruses contracted by the mother during pregnancy;
  • Diseases such as rubella, toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus are known to cause microcephaly;
  • Pregnant women with malnutrition, because it deprives the fetus of nutrients required for proper development;
  • A woman’s exposure to toxic chemicals during pregnancy;
  • A woman’s use of alcohol during pregnancy; and
  • An interruption of oxygen to the fetus’ brain during its development.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cautioned men who have been infected with the Zika virus to refrain from having sex without a condom for six months. The research isn’t conclusive, however, it does show there’s a strong possibility  the virus stays in the body for that length of time and can be transmitted through the semen.

Can Microcephaly be Prevented?

It’s important for pregnant women and those considering pregnancy to know that there are circumstances where microcephaly can be prevented. This includes situations where the mother suffered from a microcephaly-related illness that could have been avoided with proper medical care and the correct medical diagnosis.

A physician’s failure to timely diagnose microcephaly can result in the disease worsening. As the child develops, the failure of doctors to properly diagnose the disease and provide the proper treatment may mean the child doesn’t develop to his or her potential.

Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine to prevent the virus or medicine to treat it.

Contact us!

While the good news is that there weren’t any reported cases of local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission in the continental U.S. in the past two years, Zika continues to be a threat because there’s no vaccine.

If you have questions about microcephaly or birth injuries, contact our firm for a free consultation with an experienced Michigan birth injury lawyer. The Buchanan Firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, Traverse City, Flint, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Allegan, Midland, Mt. Pleasant, Cadillac, Saginaw, Alpena, and Norton Shores. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.

Contact us today!