Concerned about developmental abnormalities that can show up in children exposed to the Zika virus months or even years after birth, health experts met this week to develop new guidelines for pediatricians.
A reported 778 pregnant women with Zika have been diagnosed in the United States and its territories, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That reality spurred the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other pediatrics experts to come together to develop new guidelines for managing Zika-exposed births, reports Medpage Today.
Troubling enough is that a link has been found between Zika and microcephaly, a condition where abnormal brain development leads to a baby’s head being markedly smaller than expected. More alarming is the fact that developmental abnormalities derived from Zika may not appear until the infant has been discharged from the hospital or even months or years later, according to the publication.
"Some infants who appear initially normal, but have one of the milder forms of developmental brain problems, tend to develop acquired microcephaly," said Edwin Trevathan, M.D., visiting professor of pediatric neurology at Vanderbilt University, during the meeting, reports Medpage Today. "Some children may not meet diagnostic criteria for microcephaly, but will have deceleration in head growth and developmental delays related to associated brain malformation. It will take quite some time to know whether there's a pattern there that we can predict."
Because there can be a spectrum of complications--including ophthalmic abnormalities--pediatricians will likely have to coordinate care among a variety of specialists. The need for palliative care may be required in the most extreme manifestations of Zika, according to the publication.
At this week’s meeting, neonatologists are also grappling with how aggressively to treat babies with severe microcephaly. In addition, participants will discuss the appropriate level of support that should be provided to families impacted by the disease--before and after the birth of the child, reports the news site.
The CDC issued guidelines for the treatment of Zika in February. The work of this group is to update those guidelines, which will be presented today.