Could the Zika Virus Cause More Than Microcephaly?

By Emily Herr ’17

The latest research on the recent Zika outbreak has lead experts to conclude the virus may be causing more than the obvious condition of microcephaly. According to a New York Times article by DONALD G. McNEIL Jr., babies of mothers who contracted Zika during pregnancy are at a high risk of developing mental illness in the later years of their life.

Researchers who have studied the virus have also observed that it has similar qualities to that of other infections connected to the development of autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Although discovered in the late 1940s, scientists have not yet researched how Zika effects individuals long-term.

Due to the lack of research on the virus, experts must compare it to similar infections to make inferences about future consequences. Based on research done in the past on infants who developed similar infections like the Spanish flu and rubella in utero, fetal development and psychiatric researchers think it is likely an entire generation of children will struggle with mental illness as well as possible heart defects because of the Zika virus.