Fears of the Zika virus outbreak’s possible effects on the health of women and unborn children should be a motivation to help those infected and prevent more infections, one congressman said last week.
“Experts cite possible links with the Zika infection of pregnant mothers and disorders affecting their unborn children, although they — including our witnesses today — are quick to point out that no definitive proof of such a linkage (exists),” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said at a joint Congressional subcommittee hearing on the Zika virus Feb. 10.
“In the meantime, we must work harder to prevent maternal infections and devise compassionate ways to ensure that any child born with disabilities from this or any other infection is welcomed, loved and gets the care he or she needs,” he continued.
The congressman called for further research on vaccinations and treatments for the Zika virus and on drugs that might prevent the disease’s transmission from a mother to her unborn baby.
“Currently no therapeutics exist to treat Zika virus nor is there a vaccine — but that gap need not be forever,” he said.
Zika virus is predominantly transmitted by mosquito bite, though in some cases it is also sexually transmitted and believed to be transmitted from pregnant mother to child.
About 1 in 5 people infected with the Zika virus become ill. Most of those who become ill suffer mild symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control has said.
More alarming, however, is the virus’ suspected role in causing microcephaly among newborns if their mother catches the virus while pregnant. Microcephaly is a condition where a person has an abnormally small head. The condition is often accompanied by brain defects and other health problems.
Outbreaks of Zika virus infection previously took place in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. In May 2015 health authorities confirmed the first virus infections among people in Brazil. Active virus transmission is confirmed as far north as Mexico, with some travel-associated cases in the U.S.
The World Health Organization has recommended that people in areas of potentially infected mosquitos wear protective clothing and repellants and stay indoors. It has also advised avoiding travel to areas of a possible Zika outbreak, particularly for pregnant women.
Some pro-abortion activists have tried to use the Zika virus’ alleged link with microcephaly to encourage an expansion of legal abortion in Latin America.
Rep. Smith cited Brazil’s ambassador to the United States, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, who said that microcephaly in newborns can be caused by “a number of other diseases.”
“Health experts are dealing with something new: the link between Zika and microcephaly is unprecedented in the scientific literature and requires in-depth studies and analyses,” the ambassador said.
Rep. Smith also cited Boston Children’s Hospital’s fact sheet on microcephaly, which said some children who have the condition have normal intelligence and health. Photo credit: nuwatphoto via www.shutterstock.com