Zika Can Also Cause Hearing Loss

Henrietta Brewer
August 30, 2016

Experts have been warning that the kind of brain damage wreaked by the Zika virus could result in vision and hearing loss. The researchers add that it's possible some children born with Zika infections but without microcephaly could also be at risk for hearing problems, though this has not yet been determined.

The Brazilian study, published on Tuesday in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly report on death and disease, confirmed less rigorous reports of deafness among infants born to mothers with Zika infections.

Hearing loss is a well-established side effect of several other congenital infections, such as herpes simplex, syphilis, rubella, toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, symptoms include: flu-like symptoms that pass within seven days, fever, arthralgia (joint pain), maculopapular rash (red area with small bumps), and conjunctivitis (red, irritated eyes).

The baby also continued to show signs of Zika virus persisting in his blood, urine and saliva by day 54 after birth, and in his blood by day 67.

But, at 6 months of age "he showed neuropsychomotor developmental delay", including muscle rigidity and spasticity, the study team said.

This, the researchers say, could mean the hearing problems stem from Zika as the issue appears to be caused by damage to the nerve that links the ear with the brain.

"From an imaging standpoint, the abnormalities in the brain are very severe when compared to other congenital infections", report co-author Dr. Deborah Levine said in a news release from the journal Radiology, which published the findings August 23. And other preliminary research has also found evidence of Zika-associated hearing loss.

The study's authors suggest that babies with suspected Zika exposure should undergo hearing tests, even if there have been no indications of a problem.

There have been almost 700 confirmed Zika cases in the United States. Previously, the screening process only included pregnant women. "The rationale for the change in protocols is about prevention - for men to abstain from sex or use condoms with a pregnant partner if they are at risk for the virus because they traveled or have symptoms".

This Q & A will tell you what you need to know about Zika.

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