Florida physicians prepare for influx of babies with Zika-related birth defects

In the coming months, a few hundred infants could be born with Zika-related birth defects in the United States. Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and the University of Miami teamed up to launch a Zika response unit consisting of pediatricians, infectious disease specialists and other health experts to monitor babies born with congenital Zika as they grow up, according to Motherboard.

Beyond microcephaly, a neurological birth defect characterized by babies born with abnormally small heads, Zika can cause a host of other developmental problems in children born to women infected with the virus while pregnant. Potential issues include walking late and learning disabilities.

"Does the child eventually develop developmental issues? Does the child eventually develop learning issues?" Patricia Rodriguez, MD, a pediatrician with the response team, told Motherboard. "We don't know what's going to happen when they're 5 or 6 years old."

In Miami, where local transmission of the Zika virus was first detected and persists in two neighborhoods, most pregnant women infected with Zika will carry their baby to term. This is largely due to the delayed response of Zika testing. The delay can sometimes be more than five weeks, which eliminates the option of an early-term abortion for many women.

"There's a lag of about 30 days to get this test completed, so you can imagine the anxiety a pregnant woman would have ... while she's waiting," Kenneth Ratzan, MD, infectious disease chair of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. "It's problematic."

According to the CDC, nearly 900 cases of Zika in pregnant women in the U.S. have been reported as of Oct. 13, more than 100 of which are in Florida.

More articles on the Zika virus: 
Zika case count in the US tops 4,000 
CDC strengthens Zika travel guidance for Miami-Dade 
Going batty: Zika inspires creative problem solving in Miami Beach

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