Most children born with abnormally small heads known as microcephaly and other evidence of congenital Zika virus infection faced severe health and developmental challenges at the age of two, U.S. and Brazilian researchers said Thursday.
These adverse outcomes included an inability to sit independently, difficulties with sleeping and feeding, seizures, and hearing and vision abnormalities and these problems tended to co-occur in many children, said a new investigation led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with the State Health Secretariat of Paraiba and the Ministry of Health of Brazil.
The findings, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), were based on an analysis of 19 Brazilian children aged 19 to 24 months old, with microcephaly at birth and laboratory evidence of Zika virus infection.
Of the 19 children, 11 had indications of possible seizure disorder, 10 had sleep difficulties and nine had feeding difficulties, such as trouble swallowing, the researchers said.
They also found that 13 of the children had hearing problems and 11 had vision problems, such as not responding to the sound of a rattle and not being able to follow a moving object with their eyes.
Overall, 14 children had at least three of these challenges, and eight had been previously hospitalized, with bronchitis and pneumonia being the most commonly reported reason for hospitalization.
Although previous research described the health effects in infants born with microcephaly during the Zika outbreak, this is the first investigation to characterize the health and development of these children as they age.
CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald said in a statement that "continued monitoring of all children with congenital Zika exposure is critical to understand the full impact of the infection during pregnancy and to support these families for the long-term."