May 3, 2017
New Zika Virus Concerns: Microcephaly Just 'Tip Of The Iceberg', Says March Of Dimes Doctor

With the recent confirmation that the Zika virus is being spread within the United States by infected Florida mosquitoes, doctors are voicing their concerns about the potential health risks associated with the virus. Though microcephaly is the most talked about side effect of Zika, the medical director for the March of Dimes says it is just the "tip of the iceberg" regarding the disease. In fact, the doctor says that a host of other neurological problems have also been seen in babies infected with the virus in the womb.

Fox News reports that Dr. Edward McCabe, medical director for the March of Dimes, is hoping to help educate the public on protecting themselves from Zika virus while updating families with the latest Zika information. McCabe notes that the campaign is focused on "simple things" that people can do to protect themselves from infection. This includes mosquito protection measures, avoiding infected areas and wearing condoms to prevent sexual transmission of the virus.

Though mosquito bites are the most talked about transmission method of the Zika virus, sexual transmission has also been heavily documented. If a pregnant woman has sex with an infected man, she can contract the virus and pass it along to her baby. The virus can also be transmitted through the exposure to an infected person's blood meaning that Zika can be contracted through blood transfusions or by improper handling of blood specimens by medical staff. In fact, McCabe notes that a lab worker was diagnosed with Zika after handling a blood specimen.Though anyone can contract the Zika virus, it is pregnant women that are considered the at risk group as the Zika virus can cause a host of birth defects, such as microcephaly. Though microcephaly is a major concern and can cause premature fetal death, McCabe says that babies infected with Zika in the womb are also more susceptible to neurological problems, stillbirth and miscarriage. The neurological concerns are not fully understood making microcephaly just the "tip of the iceberg" for Zika.In fact, McCabe says that there are seemingly healthy babies being born to Zika-infected mothers who later have gone on to present with a host of neurological issues such as seizures. Therefore, he says the medical community must continue to research Zika and understand the full scope of issues. McCabe says information on the virus changes daily and that the March of Dimes is doing their best to keep the most up-to-date information on their website for families.
"We've updated [the website] 30 times since January 20th when we put the first article up. So what I'm telling you is what we know today. It may be different tomorrow and if it is, we'll change it within a day. So stay on those websites. Be informed; protect yourself. Microcephaly is only the tip of the iceberg. They're seeing babies who have no signs of microcephaly, no birth defect but are then developing seizures and having problems with sucking on a bottle or the breast -- neurological problems."
McCabe says that though many women may not be planning to become pregnant, half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Therefore, he says women should be focusing on family planning and ensuring precautionary measures are taken so that Zika is not contracted during the pregnancy.
"Fifty percent of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, so we really think that part of the message is plan your pregnancy. Think about whether this is the right time for you to have a family [if you live in an affected area]."
What do you think about Dr. McCabe's warning that microcephaly is only the "tip of the iceberg" when it comes to the Zika virus?

[Image via Shutterstock]