Zika Can Cause Microcephaly in Seemingly Healthy Babies Months After Birth

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Healthy babies born to women infected with Zika can still develop microcephaly, a new study out of Brazil shows. Published Tuesday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the report is from doctors who followed 13 babies born without the uncommonly small head that characterizes microcephaly, but with other abnormalities that showed up only on brain scans, including areas of the brain that were improperly formed, excess fluid, and calcification.

The babies were monitored regularly to watch the progression of the neurological issues. Doctors found head growth beginning to slow as early as five months, and all but two ended up with a microcephaly diagnosis. Other medical problems came, too, with ten of the babies struggling to feed, seven developing epilepsy, and nearly all suffering from muscle and joint problems.

In addition to its central finding — that the health problems associated with Zika can form even in those born without microcephaly — the report suggests that there may be some children who will not show signs of congenital Zika syndrome until even later in life. As Harvard professor and Zika expert Dr. Deborah Levine told the Times, “A lot of the developmental abnormalities we’re not going to see until later. There’s going to be another group seen later in childhood, I’m afraid, and another group probably when they reach school age.”