Health Issues Worsen As Babies Affected By Zika Reach 1-Year-Old

Study shows swallowing issues

As more is learned about the Zika virus and how it affects infants who are born to mothers infected by it, symptoms clearly worsen as those little ones grow and develop. One such case that has allowed doctors to become aware of this is Jose Wesley Campos. Just before his first birthday, it became necessary for doctors to the begin feeding Jose through a tube inserted into his nose, as his swallowing problems left him underweight to a dangerous extent.

Infected with the virus in Brazil, many mothers of affected babies see medical problems that involve the infants being born with small heads, and learning how to feed is the biggest struggle as they grow. Jose’s mother, Solange Ferreira, spoke about her son’s state while cradling him and breaking into tears.

“It hurts me to see him like this. I didn’t want this for him.”

Additional health issues that are associated with the birth defect known as microcephaly include epileptic seizures along with vision and hearing problems. Dr. Vanessa Van der Linden, a pediatric neurologist in Recife and also one of the first doctors to suspect that Zika caused microcephaly, commented on the most prominent symptoms of the condition.

“We are seeing a lot of seizures. And now they are having many problems eating, so a lot of these children start using feeding tubes.”

The Zika virus, which is mainly transmitted by mosquitoes, initially was not known to cause birth defects, but after a large outbreak took over northeastern states in Latin American, alarm bells were set off on a worldwide scale when numerous studies confirmed the link. Van der Linden shares that 7 percent of the babies with the defect that she and her team have treated were also born with arm and leg deformities, which has not previously been connected to other causes of microcephaly, such as measles and herpes.

Although not all babies affected by Zika were born with microcephaly, such cases involved other problems, including one patient that Van der Linden treated who started having troubles moving his left hand. Others were born with normal-sized heads at birth, yet months later, they stopped growing proportionally to their body.

“We may not even know about the ones with slight problems out there,” Van der Linden said. “We are writing the history of this disease.”

The Associated Press shares that members of the publication have visited Jose on three occasions over his year of life. The publication notes the behavior and conditions of the 1-year-old who is more like a newborn, even still.

” He is slow to follow objects with his crossed eyes. His head is unsteady when he tries to hold it up, and he weighs less than 13 pounds, far below the 22 pounds that is average for a baby his age. Breathing problems make his cries sound like gargling, and his legs stiffen when he is picked up. To see, he must wear tiny blue-rimmed glasses, which makes him fussy.”

In another case, a 1-year-old named Arthur Conceicao has seizures daily even though he is given medication for epilepsy. He also began taking a high-calorie formula through a tube when it appeared he was choking during meals.

Rozilene Ferreira states that every day seems to bring new problems for Jose.

“It’s every mom’s dream to see their child open his mouth and eat well.”

Doctors are now conducting studies to attempt to determine if the timing that the mother becomes infected during pregnancy affects the severity of the abnormalities associated. The U.S. National Institute of Health is also funding a study that follows a group infants born with microcephaly.

[Feature Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]