1 in 7 children of Zika-infected moms have problems: Study

In this Dec. 16, 2016 file photo, Puerto Rico resident Michelle Flandez caresses her two-month-old son Inti Perez, diagnosed with microcephaly linked to the mosquito-borne Zika virus, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. (AP)
Updated 08 August 2018
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1 in 7 children of Zika-infected moms have problems: Study

  • Most Zika infections are spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes, but it can also be spread through sex or blood transfusion
  • The percentage rose to 14 when the researchers counted later-developing problems possibly caused by Zika

NEW YORK: One out of every seven babies born to US mothers who were infected with Zika during pregnancy developed some kind of health problem, according to the first long-term look at those children.
Tuesday’s study focused on the children of women in Puerto Rico and other territories, where most of the US cases were seen when the disease swept across the Americas more than two years ago.
Most people infected with Zika don’t get sick. In others, it can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain. But infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects.
Earlier studies focused on those birth defects. The new research is unique in that it’s a large study that looked for conditions that became apparent only later, said Margaret Honein of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the authors.
The researchers looked at 1,450 kids who were at least 1 year old and whose mothers were infected with Zika while pregnant. Most were in Puerto Rico, but the count included American Samoa, the Marshall Islands, the US Virgin Islands and Micronesia.
Of those children, 6 percent had birth defects, such as abnormally small heads, damaged brains or eye irregularities. That’s about 30 times what’s seen in children generally.
The percentage rose to 14 when the researchers also counted later-developing problems possibly caused by Zika, including seizures, developmental delays and difficulty swallowing or moving.
Researchers also found that not enough kids were being checked for problems. For example, only about a third received recommended eye exams by a specialist, half got a hearing evaluation, and less than two-thirds got brain scans.
Medical services have been disrupted at times in hurricane-battered Puerto Rico. Still, it means kids who need therapy or treatment may not be getting it, Honein said.
Most Zika infections are spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes, but it can also be spread through sex or blood transfusion. The CDC previously has advised couples planning to conceive to abstain from sex or to use condoms for at least six months after a male partner comes down with Zika. On Tuesday, health officials changed the recommendation to three months in the wake of research that found the risk of sexual transmission is shorter than originally feared.


Blankets, bed-sharing common in accidental baby suffocations

In this March 22, 2012 file photo, a doctor demonstrates how an infant can die due to unsafe sleeping practices using a scene re-enactment doll in Norfolk, Va. (AP)
Updated 22 April 2019
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Blankets, bed-sharing common in accidental baby suffocations

  • The authors studied 2011-2014 data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registry of deaths in 10 states
  • Young babies can’t easily move away from bedding or a sleeping parent; all of the study deaths were in infants younger than 8 months old

CHICAGO: Accidental suffocation is a leading cause of injury deaths in US infants and common scenarios involve blankets, bed-sharing with parents and other unsafe sleep practices, an analysis of government data found.
These deaths “are entirely preventable. That’s the most important point,” said Dr. Fern Hauck, a co-author and University of Virginia expert in infant deaths.
Among 250 suffocation deaths, roughly 70 percent involved blankets, pillows or other soft bedding that blocked infants’ airways. Half of these soft bedding-related deaths occurred in an adult bed where most babies were sleeping on their stomachs.
Almost 20 percent suffocated when someone in the bed accidentally moved against or on top of them, and about 12 percent died when their faces were wedged against a wall or mattress.
The authors studied 2011-2014 data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registry of deaths in 10 states. The results offer a more detailed look at death circumstances than previous studies using vital records, said lead author Alexa Erck Lambert, a CDC researcher.
The authors said anecdotal reports suggest there’s been little change in unsafe sleep practices in more recent years.
“It is very, very distressing that in the US we’re just seeing this resistance, or persistence of these high numbers,” Hauck said.
The study was published Monday in Pediatrics.
For years, the US government and the American Academy of Pediatrics have waged safe-sleep campaigns aimed at preventing accidental infant suffocations and strangulations and sudden infant death syndrome. These include “back to sleep” advice promoting having babies sleep on their backs, which experts believe contributed to a decline in SIDS deaths over nearly 30 years. But bed-sharing has increased, along with bed-related accidental suffocations — from 6 deaths per 100,000 infants in 1999 to 23 per 100,000 in 2015, the researchers note.
Dr. Rachel Moon, a University of Virginia pediatrics professor not involved in the study, said the results are not surprising.
“Every day I talk to parents who have lost babies. They thought they were doing the right thing, and it seems safe and it seems OK, until you lose a baby,” Moon said.
Some studies have found bed-sharing increases breastfeeding and it’s common in some families because of cultural traditions. Others simply can’t afford a crib.
Erika Moulton, a stay-at-home mom in suburban New York, said bed-sharing was the only way her son, Hugo, would sleep as a newborn. Moulton struggled with getting enough sleep herself for months, and while she knew doctors advise against it, bed-sharing seemed like the only option.
Now 14 months old, “he’s still in our bed,” she said. “Trying to transition him out is a little difficult.”
The pediatricians group recommends that infants sleep on firm mattresses in their own cribs or bassinets but in their parents’ room for the first year. A tight-fitting top sheet is the only crib bedding recommended, to avoid suffocation or strangulation.
Young babies can’t easily move away from bedding or a sleeping parent; all of the study deaths were in infants younger than 8 months old.