CDC researchers call for increased surveillance of Zika-related epilepsy

In addition to the host of debilitating birth defects linked to maternal infection with the Zika virus, the mosquito-borne illness can also trigger epilepsy in infants, according to an essay written by CDC researchers and published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

The essay cites a case report in which 24 of 48 infants in Brazil with probable congenital Zika infections experienced clinical seizures. The researchers also referenced another cluster of reported congenital Zika infections in 13 babies. Among the 13, seven eventually developed epilepsy.

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"These findings suggest the need to examine how and to what extent congenital Zika infection and resulting brain abnormalities are associated with seizures and/or epilepsy," wrote the authors, who go on to call for increased surveillance of epilepsy and seizures in areas experiencing active local Zika transmission.

"Answering these questions is important; epilepsy is associated with considerable morbidity and costs, and early recognition and treatment of epilepsy may mitigate some adverse outcomes associated with developmental delay," the researchers added.

Beyond microcephaly, a neurological birth defect characterized by babies born with abnormally small heads, Zika can cause multiple other developmental problems in children born to women infected with the virus while pregnant, including impairments to the eyes and joints.

More articles on the Zika virus: 
Puerto Rico may be underreporting Zika-related birth defects, experts say 
New diagnostic CRISPR test can identify Zika and antibiotic resistance 
Nearly 10% of pregnant women with lab-confirmed Zika had a baby or fetus with birth defects in 2016

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