The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) is currently monitoring 30 babies either born or currently residing in Connecticut to mothers who had tested positive for Zika virus or Flavivirus during their pregnancies. DPH, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is monitoring all pregnancies where Zika or Flavivirus was diagnosed in the mother and is conducting follow up monitoring, as per the CDC recommended guidelines, at birth, two, six, and twelve months after birth for signs of Zika related birth defects in the babies. DPH is also monitoring 9 women who are still pregnant with laboratory evidence of confirmed Zika virus or Flavivirus.
"It is critical that we work with pediatricians to monitor these babies for signs of Microcephaly or other Zika-related birth defects throughout the first year of life because we have seen that these defects are not necessarily readily apparent at birth," said DPH Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino. "Any baby who has signs of Zika-related birth defects will receive further monitoring, and we will be assisting the families and pediatricians with ensuring that both baby and family receive the services and supports that they will need to address the baby’s issues."
"In addition, we strongly encourage all Connecticut OB/GYNs and hospitals to screen all pregnant women for possible exposure to Zika virus. 80 percent of people exposed to Zika virus never show symptoms and don’t realize that they have or had the virus. We can only track the patients we know have been tested, which means we could be missing a significant portion of pregnant women and babies exposed to Zika virus," added Commissioner Pino.
Of the 30 live births currently being monitored by DPH, two babies have been confirmed with Zika-related birth defects and another nine babies were borderline for birth defects. Those nine will be followed closely at their pediatrician appointments for any possible changes in their measurements to confirm or rule out microcephaly or other birth defects related to Zika.
Microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected. During pregnancy, a baby’s head grows because the baby’s brain grows. Microcephaly can occur because a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy or has stopped growing after birth, which results in a smaller head size. Microcephaly can be an isolated condition, meaning that it can occur with no other major birth defects, or it can occur in combination with other major birth defects. Babies with microcephaly can have a range of other problems, depending on how severe their microcephaly is. Microcephaly has been linked with the following problems:
- Developmental delay, such as problems with speech or other developmental milestones (like sitting, standing, and walking)
- Intellectual disability (decreased ability to learn and function in daily life)
- Problems with movement and balanceFeeding problems, such as difficulty swallowingHearing loss
- Vision problems
These problems can range from mild to severe and are often lifelong. Because the baby’s brain is small and underdeveloped, babies with severe microcephaly can have more of these problems, or have more difficulty with them, than babies with milder microcephaly. Severe microcephaly also can be life-threatening. Because it is difficult to predict at birth what problems a baby will have from microcephaly, babies with microcephaly often need close follow-up through regular check-ups with a healthcare provider to monitor their growth and development.
"As we head into the Caribbean travel season, it is imperative that pregnant women, women who plan to become pregnant and their partners carefully consider any plans to travel to areas where mosquitoes are still carrying Zika, and if travel is necessary that they take precautions to protect against mosquito bites," said Commissioner Pino. "We are actively working with the CDC and other states to quantify the risk of birth defects in order to help identify the types of birth defects that are more common in infants who were exposed to Zika virus and the subpopulations that are most affected by Zika-related outcomes."
As of January 18, 2017, DPH’s State Laboratory has tested 1,208 patients for Zika virus, including 873 pregnant patients. Of those, 109 patients have tested positive for Zika virus, including six pregnant women. An additional 44 patients, and 34 pregnant patients, have tested positive for Flavivirus, a related class of viruses that include Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile virus.