Growing Concern as Zika Virus Proliferates, May Cause Birth Defects in Infants

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has scheduled an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee to address the recent proliferation of Zika virus, which has been tentatively linked to birth defects in infants. Since the Zika virus outbreak, there has been a significant increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly, a rare condition that causes abnormally small heads in infants and may lead to complications including neurological conditions, developmental delays, and hearing loss.

Since the first case was reported in Brazil in May of 2015, Zika virus has spread to 22 countries and it has been estimated that the virus may infect upwards of 4 million people by the end of 2016. The purpose of the upcoming committee, which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, February 1st, is to determine whether or not the Zika outbreak has become a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The Zika virus is a transmitted via mosquitoes and the virus was largely inactive until last May. Due to the lack of immune defenses against Zika virus, the World Health Organization has stated that the virus is “spreading explosively” since the first case was documented in Brazil last year. Although the virus presents little threat to most of those infected, resulting in few, if any, symptoms, it may represent a significant threat to the unborn babies of women who are infected while pregnant.

The instances of microcephaly, as well as other neurological disorders and neonatal malformations, have skyrocketed since the Zika virus eruption. In Brazil, officials have documented over 2,700 cases of microcephaly in 2015, a staggering increase over the previous year, which saw only 147 cases. The most recent estimates of microcephaly in Brazil have reached 3,500.

Researchers in both the United States and Brazil have discovered evidence of the Zika virus in brain tissue of infants who were born with, or died from, microcephaly. Now, the the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised American women to avoid travel in 13 Latin American countries to avoid the threat of birth defects in their unborn children.

Microcephaly can occur during pregnancy if the baby’s brain does not develop properly, or it can present after the baby is born if his or her head stops growing. The condition has been linked to a host of serious health problems, including: seizures, developmental delays, learning or intellectual disabilities, problems with movement or balance, hearing loss, and vision problems. The condition can be diagnosed during pregnancy through ultrasound testing in the late second or early third trimester, or after birth during physical exams that measure head circumference.

Medical professionals responsible for monitoring pregnant women and infants should be aware of this ongoing threat. The CDC has advised pregnant women who traveled to a country with documented cases of Zika virus to consult with their doctors if they present with any of the following symptoms: fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Telling your doctor about your recent travel is essential and he or she should administer tests appropriately.

If you have recently given birth, your infant’s doctor should measure his or her head circumference after 24 hours. If microcephaly is suspected, additional tests such as CT scans and MRI’s can be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. Medical professionals have a responsibility to recognize and monitor conditions involving cranial deformations such as microcephaly, plagiocephaly, and craniosynostosis. When they fail to fulfill this responsibility, the law provides victims and their families with recourse.

At Fronzuto Law Group, our team of pediatric and medical malpractice attorneys represents and consults with families nationwide in cases involving cranial deformation. In fact, we have achieved several multi-mullion dollar verdicts on behalf of victims who suffered as a result of medical professionals’ failure to diagnose and treat conditions including plagiocephaly and craniosynostosis. Our firm’s founder, Ernest P. Fronzuto, has become a leading resource in cases of this kind due to his extensive knowledge of the medical and legal implications of these conditions. If your child has been diagnosed with a condition such as microcephaly, plagiocephaly, or craniosynostosis, contact Fronzuto Law Group at 973-435-4551to schedule a free consultation.

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