Zika-related symptoms in infants get a name

Margarita Cambest

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have put a name to a distinct pattern of birth defects associated with the Zika virus.

Gleyse Kelly da Silva holds her daughter Maria Giovanna as she sleeps in their house in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. Brazilian officials still say they believe there's a sharp increase in cases of microcephaly and strongly suspect the Zika virus, which first appeared in the country last year, is to blame. The concern is strong enough that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month warned pregnant women to reconsider visits to areas where Zika is present. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Eight states, including Pennsylvania, have reported more than 100 cases of travel-related Zika as of Oct.  26. The mosquito-borne virus is especially problematic for pregnant women because of the possibility of birth defects in unborn children.

According to a report in the Journal of American Medicine Pediatrics, the five types of birth defects that most commonly occur from contracting the virus during pregnancy — severe microcephaly, thin cerebral cortices, scarring of the eye, congenital contractures and a reduced ability of muscles to stretch — are now officially called congenital Zika syndrome.

Researchers said the recognition of the defects as a syndrome in infants and children will help providers evaluate, investigate and define affected patients and determine ongoing care.

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The Zika outbreak began in Brazil in May 2015, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and has spread rapidly. In response, the CDC has issued travel notices to regions where the Zika virus is being transmitted locally, including parts of Florida and Puerto Rico.

Pregnant women are advised to postpone travel to parts of Miami-Dade County, including Miami Beach and another 1-square-mile area of the county, as no vaccine or treatment is currently available.

The DOH updates confirmed cases on its website each Monday. As of Oct. 31, there were 127 confirmed Zika infections and 38 probable cases in Pennsylvania. While all of the cases are travel-related, the CDC has cautioned the species of mosquito responsible for the infection could travel as far north as southeastern Pennsylvania.

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Most people infected with Zika do not have symptoms, but fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain or headache could last for several days to a week after infection.

Anyone who develops these symptoms and has visited an area with Zika is encouraged to see a doctor or health care provider, especially if pregnant.