ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Zika may have disappeared from the headlines, but the mosquito-borne virus is still lurking around the world. And there's troubling news out today about the threat Zika poses to babies in their first year of life. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein has the details.
ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Zika triggered an international public health emergency two years ago when a big outbreak in Brazil revealed the virus could devastate babies' brains. The crisis has passed, but the virus is still spreading in nearly 100 countries. So Peggy Honein at the CDC says it's crucial to get a better understanding of what happens to babies when they're exposed to Zika in the womb.
PEGGY HONEIN: And this is really our first look at how these children are doing as they grow and develop and really emphasizes that the Zika story is not over, particularly for these children.
STEIN: The CDC studied more than 1,400 Zika-exposed babies who doctors follow at least through their first birthdays.
HONEIN: This is the largest study of children reaching 1 year old and beginning to see the full spectrum of the impact of Zika.
STEIN: Six percent were born with birth defects like very small heads and badly damaged brains, a condition known as microcephaly. But by the time these kids turned one, 14 percent had developed some kind of problem that could have been caused by Zika.
HONEIN: There were 20 babies that had a normal head circumference when they were born, and their measurements were normal. But as they grew, they developed microcephaly. And that happened because their brain was not growing and developing properly.
STEIN: And that's not all.
HONEIN: We're seeing vision problems, some hearing loss. We're seeing motor difficulties, moving their hands to pick up objects around them, cognitive problems, seizures, swallowing difficulties.
STEIN: And Honein says, who knows what will happen to these kids as they grow older?
HONEIN: We are still in the early stages of learning about Zika, so we don't yet know what sort of problems might emerge when the children are 2 years old or 3 years old or when they reach school age and what sort of assistance they're going to need to reach their full potential.
STEIN: So Honein says these kids have to be monitored closely to be on the lookout for problems.
HONEIN: It's critically important that parents and doctors work together to make sure children that have possible Zika exposure during pregnancy are getting all the care and evaluation they need even if they look healthy when they're born.
STEIN: And the CDC is following thousands more babies to continue to get a better idea of just how dangerous Zika is. Rob Stein, NPR News.
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