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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced a $350,000 supplement to a one year cooperative agreement with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help expand capacity for caring for children who are or may be impacted by the Zika virus.
AAP will use these funds to provide technical assistance and education, including tele-consultation, to clinicians at community health centers and other health care sites in the United States and its territories, including Puerto Rico and South Florida, providing care to children who are or may be impacted by Zika virus.
“This funding is an opportunity to enhance our existing work implementing the medical home model for children, particularly children with special health care needs, to help address emerging health concerns related to the Zika virus,” said Jim Macrae, HRSA acting administrator.
“Clinicians worldwide have limited experience caring for infants or children of women exposed to Zika virus during pregnancy, and no network exists to connect providers newly caring for these patients with one another and with those who have relevant expertise,” said HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response Dr. Nicole Lurie. “The AAP effort can help us bridge this gap so that providers can learn from one another and are better prepared to support and care for their patients.”
Zika is spread primarily through a mosquito’s bite and may also be sexually transmitted by a person who has been infected with Zika. Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will have only mild symptoms. However, Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. The extent of other possible birth defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth is unclear.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the risk of a baby developing a severe brain defect could be as high as 13 percent among women infected with the Zika virus in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Discussions of developmental screening, clinical management and family support approaches can help clinicians serving pregnant women, infants and children, increasing access to well-coordinated, family-centered care in a medical home for children and families impacted by Zika-related complications.