These Parents Proudly Show Their Babies Affected by Zika
“I’m showing mine to the world!” Declared a proud mother as she held up her baby to the camera. Photographer Felipe Dana used instant film so that families could keep portraits of their babies affected by Zika virus.
Babies harmed by Zika, a virus transmitted by a mosquito to an expectant mother, are often born with microcephaly, or a smaller than normal head. There is no medicine or vaccine to counter the effects of Zika.
Some mothers in Brazilian culture feel compelled by society to hide disabled children from ridicule and condemnation. Angelica Periera, a mother of Luiza Beatriz, disagrees.
“I’m showing her to the world!” She announced. “What is beautiful should be seen by everyone!”
In poverty-stricken areas like Northeastern Brazil, handicapped children face social stigma, the daily grind of poverty and parents’ divided efforts to care for brothers and sisters as well. Sometimes the burden is doubled, as with Daniele Ferriera dos Santos and her son Juan Pedro, born with microcephaly due to Zika in Recife, Brazil. Juan Pedro’s father left home shortly after he was born, and Juan’s grandmother and sister help his mother care for him.
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Sadly, for Zika infected pregnant mothers, the microcephaly risk may be as high as 13 percent. Microcephaly is characterized by poor brain development at birth and abnormally small head circumference. Researchers postulate that the virus invades brain cells, killing some and keeping others from multiplying through normal fetal development. Children seem most severely affected in the first trimester of pregnancy, with a strong chance of microcephaly or related disability if Zika virus is present at this time. Most children born with microcephaly will be mentally disabled in some way.
The risk for mosquito bites is appreciable in warm countries, and studies are now tracking hundreds of Brazilian mothers and Zika-affected babies. Brazil has been affected the most severely by Zika.
The challenges poor women face to receive rehabilitation treatment for their children in Brazil are formidable, indeed. Baby Enzo feeds well and has gained weight, but his mother must provide him with medication to control seizures. He also needs therapy with hand movements. She is one of the few mothers in the photos who can walk to a rehabilitation center nearby.
Tatiane do Nascimento has two other children besides her son Willamis Silva. Willamis failed to thrive because of swallowing problems. He was given a feeding tube, but he pulled it out twice. At this point, Willamis is improving, and his mother has reduced her daily visits to the hospital and physical therapy to two or three times a week.
Poor sanitation and dwelling structures in impoverished Brazilian neighborhoods cause serious concerns over rampant Zika-born illness. Many times the slight fever and rash go unnoticed by busy mothers balancing employment, home and care for other children. The diagnostics of the disease are costly, as the virus only exists in the body for about a week. Mosquito larva in trash and standing water may survive without interruption. Northern Brazil is historically a place of drought, so families often keep water supplies in tanks for domestic use.
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Gleyse Kelly has four children, including Giovanna, a child affected by Zika virus. Gleyse has a unique, personal outlook.
She states, “My biggest fear when I was pregnant was that she would die after I gave birth.”
Earnestly, wistfully, she says, “I hope that she will be able to walk, talk and go on to study.”