A Brazilian doctor working with 130 infants born with the rare birth defect associated with exposure to the Zika virus in utero -- microcephaly -- said the disease has been frightening for both patients and doctors.
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"This was the first time we related Zika virus to microcephaly," Dr. Camilla Ventura is an ophthalmologist at the Altino Ventura hospital told ABC News. "This is scary.”
Microcephaly has been associated with the Zika virus in Brazil after the outbreak started last May. More than 4,000 infants have been born in the country with the condition, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.
“We are dealing with disease that we have no information about and we, the Brazilians are responding differently from what we expected to see,” Ventura said of the Zika virus.
Ventura said the team is testing various aspects of the infants' comprehension and reaction to see what, if any, developmental delays they have.
Ventura demonstrated with one young patient how they used toys and sound as tests.
The doctor said the birth defects have been difficult not only for the children but for the parents and that mothers have come in depressed or with other psychological problems as a result.
“Many of the mothers, they did not know that their babies had issues and it was as surprise not only for the doctors but for these mothers, they were not expecting at all,” Ventura said. “Many got depressed.”
Ventura said they started group counseling sessions to help mothers cope with the birth defects.
“Little by little we are working with these mothers, they are exchanging experience,” she said. “They can open themselves, they can express their feelings."
The key, she said, is to teach the mothers how to help their infants outside of the clinic. Ventura said the infants are doing better and better with therapies.
“It’s very important to not only come to the center weekly but also mothers they have to learn to treat these babies at home,” she said.