Should You and Your Dr. be Concerned about Zika Virus?

In a previous post titled “Zika Virus and Birth Defects: Q and A“, we provided our readers with helpful information about Zika virus (Zika), how it is contracted and spread, and what symptoms people with Zika may experience.  As more cases are reported and research develops, you may wonder, “should you and your dr. be concerned about Zika virus?”

With new reports suggesting that Zika is much more dangerous to pregnant women and babies than previously thought – we want to help our readers be informed in order to stay safe and know their rights.  Women who are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant should understand the risks of Zika and talk to their doctor if they experience unusual symptoms or have traveled to a “Zika-prone” area.

New Information About the Dangers of Zika Virus

Over the last year, news of Zika and its dangers have reached across the globe.  Microcephaly is the birth defect most commonly linked to Zika, though new research suggests it is not the only concern.  Researchers now believe that Zika can cause a host of other symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to permanent disability.

According to the new research, babies exposed to Zika are at risk of developing any of the following conditions and disorders:

  • Microcephaly – small, misshapen head
  • Seizures
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision abnormalities – including tissue damage, patchy pigments
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Crying/irritability
  • Constipation
  • Spasticity
  • Joint contractures – joints stuck in abnormal positions

Because of this wide range of possible birth defects, many public health officials are using the term “congenital Zika syndrome”.  Researchers are also focusing on the fact that Zika may affect the baby without visible birth defects.  A microbiologist and pediatrician in Houston believes that there is a “spectrum” of possible illnesses related to Zika, much like the autism spectrum.

Such thought among researchers have resulted in warnings to pregnant mothers and doctors to take every precaution when monitoring pregnant women and their babies, even if nothing “looks” wrong.  It is also advised to be aware that some symptoms, such as developmental delays, may not appear until the toddler years.

How Zika Virus is Affecting Texas

While all 50 states have been warned of the dangers of Zika, there are only two that have active cautionary status from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Texas and Florida.  Here in Texas, residents should be aware of the warning the CDC has issued for people living in and around Brownsville, Texas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported a Zika outbreak in November 2016, with several additional diagnosed cases in the area since.  The area around Brownsville has been listed as a “yellow” zone by the CDC, which means the level of risk is unknown and residents should be cautious.  The CDC advises of a risk of “continued spread” in the areas around Brownsville.

The CDC warning affects many more Texans than the residents of Brownsville.  According to the CDC, the advisory also extends to anyone planning to travel there.  According to the CDC, pregnant women especially should avoid traveling to Brownsville until the cautionary status is removed.  If you are planning to travel near Brownsville for the holidays, you might want to visit the CDC’s report offering guidance for people living in, or traveling to, Brownsville.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Family

While there is no guaranteed way of ensuring that you are not exposed to Zika, there are some precautions you can take to reduce the likelihood of contracting this dangerous virus.  Such precautions include:

  • Avoid traveling to any area identified as “high-risk”, or areas where there is a confirmed outbreak.
  • Take basic precautions if you are outdoors – wear long sleeves and pants, use insect repellant, and stay away from standing water (where mosquitoes breed).
  • If you are sexually active and live in a high risk area, or you and/or your partner has traveled to a high risk area, practice safe sex. Use a condom correctly during any form of sexual activity.
  • If you are pregnant, talk to your partner about Zika, and discuss whether either of you have been exposed, or may have been exposed while traveling.
  • Talk to your doctor about Zika and your health. Many people who are infected do not have noticeable symptoms.  Others only experience symptoms after days or weeks have passed since being infected.
  • If you are pregnant, make sure that your doctor is aware of Zika and is prepared to monitor you and your baby throughout your pregnancy.
  • If you are planning on becoming pregnant and are concerned about Zika, talk to your doctor to determine the best ways to keep your growing family safe.

Being informed about possible health risks is a powerful tool for patients in Texas, and across the U.S.  Further, patients have the right to be informed about their health and to have their concerns and medical needs addressed in accordance to legally and ethically accepted standards.

How to Get Help when Healthcare Goes Awry

If you or your baby has been harmed due to a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider failing to recognize, address, and treat a virus or other complication appropriately, contact Brown Wharton & Brothers today.  When healthcare goes awry, you and your family suffer physical, emotional, and financial trauma.

At Brown Wharton & Brothers, our team of birth injury and medical malpractice attorneys are dedicated to protecting Texas patients who are the victims of medical malpractice or negligence.  Our attorneys and staff genuinely care about our clients and work diligently to achieve the best outcome possible for your case.  To schedule your free case review, fill out our online form.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/zika/intheus/texas-update.html

https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/zika-birth-defects-concerns-spread-head-toe