The List of Zika-Related Birth Defects Just Got Longer

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Photo: Alvegaspar/Wikipedia

Zika, as even those who have been only vaguely paying attention are surely aware, was confirmed by leading health experts earlier this spring to be linked to microcephaly, a birth defect that causes a baby’s head to be abnormally small, likely because the fetal brain stops developing in utero. More recently, doctors studying the babies born with Zika have suggested that the microcephaly associated with the Zika virus may be especially destructive, resulting in structural brain damage in the areas of the brain associated with cognition and vision.

It gets, unfortunately, worse from here. In its June bulletin, the World Health Organization released a list of other birth defects the agency believes to be associated with Zika, too: seizures and spasticity, facial abnormalities, and problems with feeding and vision, among other things. The authors of the report write that the abnormalities associated with Zika may be part of a “spectrum,” something they’re calling congenital Zika syndrome. Microcephaly, then, as veteran health reporter Helen Branwell phrases it, “appears to be the tip of a much larger iceberg.”