Department of Public Health monitors pregnant women with positive Zika tests in Connecticut

In this Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016 photo, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The mosquito is a vector for the proliferation of the Zika virus spreading throughout Latin America. New figures from Brazil's Health Ministry show that the Zika virus outbreak has not caused as many confirmed cases of a rare brain defect as first feared. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Connecticut Department of Public Health says they are monitoring 30 babies who were born to mothers who tested positive for the Zika virus or Flavivirus during their pregnancies. They say the babies were either born or currently live in Connecticut.

The CT Department of Public Health (DPH) joined the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor all pregnancies where the two viruses were diagnosed. They say they also conduct follow-up monitoring at birth and two months, six months and 12 months after birth to check for Zika-related birth defects in the babies. DPH says they are also monitoring nine women who are still pregnant, but have laboratory evidence of confirmed Zika virus or Flavivirus.

The DPH Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino says it’s important to catch Zika symptoms early in these babies.

“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.”

Pino says there are doctors who will help the families of babies who do have Zika-related birth defects. He says any baby who has signs of Zika-related birth defects will be monitored. He says there will be services and support for family members who will help address the baby’s issues.

One of the most important things to know, though, Pino says, is that many pregnant women don’t know they are even exposed to the Zika virus.

We strongly encourage all Connecticut OB/GYNs and hospitals to screen all pregnant women for possible exposure to Zika virus. 80% of people exposed to Zika virus never show symptoms and don’t realize that they have or had the virus. We can only track the patients we know have been tested, which means we could be missing a significant portion of pregnant women and babies exposed to the Zika virus.”

According to the DPH, of the 30 live births that they are monitoring, two babies have been confirmed to have Zika-related birth defects. They say another nine babies were border-line for having those defects. Officials say those nine babies will be followed closely by their pediatricians for any changes to their measurements so doctors can either confirm or rule out microcephaly or other Zika-related birth defects.

Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected. Doctors say during pregnancy, a baby’s head grows because the baby’s brain is growing. Microcephaly can occur when a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy or has stopped growing after birth which results in a smaller head size. Microcephaly can be an isolated condition or it can occur with other major birth defects.

Babies with microcephaly can have a range of problems depending on the severity. According to doctors, microcephaly has been linked to the following problems:

  • Seizures
  • Developmental delays (ie: problems with speech, standing, sitting, walking)
  • Intellectual disabilities (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)
  • Problems with movement and balance
  • Feeding problems (difficulty swallowing)
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision problems

Doctors say these problems can range from mild to severe in severity, but are often lifelong. They say because a baby’s brain is small and underdeveloped, babies with severe microcephaly can have more of these problems, or more difficulty with them. Severe microcephaly can be life threatening.

As of January 18, 2017, the DPH’s State Laboratory says they had tested 1,208 patients for the Zika virus, including 873 pregnant women. Of those, 109 tested positive for Zika including six pregnant women. An additional 44 patients and 34 pregnant patients have tested positive for Flavivirus, a related class of viruses that include Zika, dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile virus.

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