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HHS Responds to Zika Outbreak Amidst Zika Surge in Puerto Rico

AUG 15, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR

Zika Complications

Combating Zika infection in pregnant women is as important now as it has ever been, since new research is proving that fetal complications range far beyond microcephaly. According to a study published in BMJ, congenital Zika virus syndrome is associated with arthrogryposis, a severe joint condition. Previous studies linking congenital Zika infection and arthrogryposis did not present substantial evidence to confirm an association; however, scientists from Recife, Brazil analyzed brain and joint images taken from seven children who presented with the following: arthrogryposis; a history of a congenital infection; brain calcifications associated with microcephaly; and negative tests for toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, rubella, syphilis, and HIV—other major cause of microcephaly. According to a press release about the article, “All the children underwent high definition scanning of the joints and surrounding tissues, but there was no evidence of joint abnormalities,” leading the researchers to believe that joint abnormalities were “likely to be of neurogenic origin.”
 
The researchers were not able to form any conclusions regarding the effects of Zika on joint conditions in infected fetuses, since this was an observational study. The scientists believe, however, that arthrogryposis may be associated with either the manner by which motor neurons transmit signals to a fetus’s muscles, or to vascular disorders.
 
According to the scientists, further studies with a larger pool of participants are needed before an association between neurological abnormalities and the development of arthrogryposis can be made. The researchers believe that there is a possibility that these children will develop secondary musculoskeletal deformities due to their neurological complications, and therefore recommend orthopedic follow-up. According to the research team, “congenital Zika syndrome should be added to the differential diagnosis of congenital infections and arthrogryposis.” 

Zika in the United States

The number of Zika-infected individuals in Puerto Rico has been on the rise since the beginning of the outbreak and two deaths have already been reported. To combat active transmission of the Zika virus in the continental United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning on travel to Puerto Rico, as well as other regions with active transmission.

Local transmission of the virus was recently confirmed in Miami, Florida in early July 2016. The number of Zika infections in Florida has steadily increased since then, with a total of 30 cases, as of August 15, 2016, according to the Florida Department of Health.
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