The Zika virus made headlines earlier this year when the CDC declared it an international medical emergency. It turns out that the virus has a greater health impact than was originally believed, which is why the CDC in Atlanta and the WHO decided that it is an international threat.
Zika is known to cause several birth injuries, including microcephaly. Microcephaly is a type of birth defect where the baby’s head is much smaller than the typical size. Children with this condition have smaller, less developed brains, which may cause several problems down the line, including seizures, developmental delays, mental disability, difficulty swallowing, hearing loss, and poor vision.
But is Zika responsible for these birth injuries?
Here to Stay
Just a few months after the first declaration nine months ago, the WHO decided that it is no longer a medical emergency. This does not mean that Zika is not responsible for birth injuries and that it is not dangerous, only that epidemiologists are acknowledging that it is here to say.
Along with influenza and a host of other diseases, it will be impossible to quarantine the Zika virus and prevent its spread.
Zika, which is a mosquito-borne disease, has already infected more than 2,100 people this year in Brazil alone, with reports of infection in almost 30 countries. It can also be sexually transmitted. The WHO decided that it will now shift to a more long-term management approach to infections, as it will be impossible to eradicate at this point.
Effects on the Body
Zika is not particularly dangerous when the infected is a healthy adult. Some fever and joint pains are common, but people recover in just a few days.
The real problem is the effect of Zika on an unborn child. Pregnant mothers infected with Zika have an increased risk of their child developing microcephaly and other birth defects.
Zika may also cause other problems, such as the formation of excessive scalp tissue, club feet, and contractures.
Contractures refer to the condition where the muscles, tendons, and joints become rigid and deformed. Zika increases the risk of contractures, with as many as 11% of infected children exhibiting this defect.
There’s no doubt that Zika does cause birth defects and fetal injury, as the evidence is overwhelming.
Pregnant mothers should limit their exposure to the Zika virus. Though it no longer has an international medical emergency status, it is still a dangerous disease.