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Sep 22, 2016

Healthy Living Reviews Link Between Zika and Pregnancy

Zika education continues. The Ministry of Health and other agencies have been working to keep the public aware of the preventative measures being recommended. As this emerging illness continues to be studied there is more and more information available to the public on the risks and effects. It is common knowledge that pregnant women should do all they can to prevent contracting Zika. Tonight in Healthy Living we look at the confirmed links between Zika and unborn babies.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
Very early after the mosquito borne illness emerged in this region, it was suspected that there was a possible link between Zika and birth defects. While there is still a lot that the medical community doesn’t know- and are trying to find out- about the Zika, they have confirmed that it can have devastating effects on fetuses.

 

Cecilio Eck

Dr. Cecilio Eck, Head of Pediatrics, K.H.M.H.
“Zika virus has been around a long time from the 1940’s. It started to spread of late. The association that is of the greatest concern is that if you are pregnant, at a specific time in your pregnant you get infected the baby is at risk of developing microcephaly. Prior to Zika and even with Zika, there are many other common causes to microcephaly than the Zika virus. The number one cause in our country in my estimation would be issues at birth with prematurity, with bleeding within the brain, with birth trauma, with blood flow to the brain because of an issue at birth and if that happens then the brain stops growing and the baby ends up with a small head. So microcephaly actually means small head. If the brain does not grow and the brain is the control center of your entire body then you end up with a child who is slow to develop: will not walk properly will not speak properly or at the appropriate time, will not develop fine motor skills, may not see, smell, chew and taste and swallow, and all of those deficits would lead to a child who is slower than normal.”

 

Karl Jones

Dr. Karl Jones, Medical Coordinator, Matron Roberts Polyclinic

“The main thing that most people know, the development of or giving birth to a child with microcephaly. There is evidence to show that there are other types of birth defects: neurological and cardiovascular defects that can come about and are suspected to be linked to Zika. But as far as we know right now the main thing is microcephaly.”

 

Both Doctors Jones and Eck work in public health facilities and participate in the continuous education of the prevention and possible effects of Zika. Like most other doctors, they have been keeping current with official findings and lingering questions about the illness and its effects on unborn babies.

 

Dr. Cecilio Eck

“It stays within our system for six months. The last WHO information is that you abstain from sex with your partner for six months prior because if that person becomes pregnant then they may still have the effect. I spoke with our neurologist Doctor Sosa and he said that there is a late onset of the illness where babies who are born with normal head circumference down the road may develop a late onset sickness that may come up to six months later.”

 

Dr. Karl Jones

“We don’t know exactly at what point in pregnancy the product of the pregnancy the fetus- is most susceptible, so we don’t know if you got Zika all the way at thirty-two, thirty-four, thirty-three weeks if it’s okay. We don’t know if getting Zika at that point is more or less dangerous than contracting at eight, nine, ten weeks or so. Those things are not known as yet. Neither do we know how long there is a potential for a baby to be affected. Let’s say you got Zika and you’re not pregnant, we don’t know when you’re cleared, so to speak, to have what would be considered a healthy pregnancy, those are key things that aren’t known as yet.”

 

While late onset microcephaly will require additional surveillance, in Belize, ultrasounds are being used to monitor unborn babies for development. This was explained earlier this year in April, as a part of the Ministry’s response to Zika.

 

Natalia Largaespada

Dr. Natalia Largaespada, Maternal & Child Health Adviser, MOH [File: April 21st, 2016]
“We have a WHO chart that we use for children at term and we have a next growth chart that we use for preterm babies. It i not only the size of the head, but the damage that it cause to the tissue in the brains up to even calcification of the brain. That means that the brain cannot function normally if that child were to survive. But that can be detected because not all cases of microcephaly will end up with calcification. But you need to document that, investigate it before through ultrasounds. We recommend at twenty weeks and then at twenty-nine weeks and then do a comparison to see if there is any reduction in the size of the head of the fetus and if there is any changes suggesting that there are changes to the brain tissue.

Dr. Cecilio Eck
“Because our numbers are low in Belize we haven’t been seeing or there have been no confirmed (Zika linked) microcephaly cases in Belize…that I know about yet. But it will happen if it is endemic as is reported by the ministry of health on Caye caulker. It will happen.”

 

Zika is transmitted primarily by infected mosquitoes. It’s also transmitted through unprotected sex and can be passed from a mother to her fetus. Common symptoms are fever, rash, pink eye and feeling unwell. The symptoms are mild and generally last for a week. Remember there is no cure or vaccination for Zika; so for those in the reproductive age, prevention is your best response.

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