Everyone remembers the panic that erupted following the Zika outbreaks that began in 2015. Olympic athletes and civilians alike halted travel, changed plans, and began sharing any and all research they could find.
I found myself walking through a Jamaican airport, signs, and warning plastered all over the walls.
But, like it tends to, the fear faded and only those truly affected continue to follow the stories.
Until now, 2 years later, reports are showing strong links between Zika and epilepsy. In one study conducted with three researchers at the CDC 50% of newborns in the trial displayed clinical seizures.
Now, it’s no secret that researchers have known for some time that Zika was related to microcephaly, a condition in which a infants are born with underdeveloped brains that can result in neurological conditions, such as seizures. So why is this news important?
Seizures are typically not identified in infants the same way they are in adolescents and older adults. In the cases of infantile epilepsy, exterior symptoms can be as simple as stiffening of limbs without much movement. In developing countries without current technology, the identification of epilepsy is much more difficult.
Increased awareness in the links between Zika and infantile epilepsy means providers in these countries can at least be on the lookout for early signs.
Even that, though, may not be enough. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), barriers to medications are a huge obstacle in epileptics in some South American countries, such a Brazil, to treat the illness.
With the huge treatment gap in place, Brazilian mothers will continue to see the increased mortality rate that comes with an epileptic child in an developing country.