Babies and Brain Damage

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MERS virus

Photo courtesy of NIAID via Flickr

  • Babies and brain damage: For years it was assumed that brain injuries of newborns resulted from insufficient oxygen during labor or delivery. A 2003 study reported that fewer than 10 percent of children with cerebral palsy (the most severe brain injury) showed signs of asphyxia at birth. According to an update to the 2003 study recently published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, brain injuries affect about three in a thousand babies born full-term in the United States, but only half of these cases are linked to oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery. And even in those cases, most likely there was a complication that occurred long before the birth that could have amplified the effects of a reduced oxygen supply during birth. As Dr. Mary E. D’Alton, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, and a head of the study team explained, reasons for such brain disorders in newborns could include genetic factors and maternal health problems like hypothyroidism, placental abnormalities, major bleeding during pregnancy, infection of the fetal membranes and a stroke in the baby around the time of birth.
  • MERS virus found in the U.S.: U.S. health officials have recently confirmed the first case of an American infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus. The victim fell ill one week after returning to the U.S. from working in Saudi Arabia. The MERS virus belongs to the coronavirus group that also includes the common cold as well as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome, that killed about 800 people worldwide in 2003). The MERS virus can spread from person to person, most likely only after a close contact and not everybody exposed to the virus gets sick. However, this virus is unusually lethal killing about a third of the people it infects, which is a much higher percentage than a flu or other common infections. Currently there is no vaccine or cure for the MERS virus, but it’s not as contagious as flu, measles or other diseases.
  • Drowsiness and insomnia could potentially cause a stroke: About half of all strokes are caused by risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. But according to a new study published in journal PLOS Medicine, common and preventable factors such as insomnia and other sleep disorders can be as dangerous. People with insomnia have a 54 percent higher risk for stroke, compared to those without this disorder. Women who frequently experience daytime drowsiness have a 58 percent higher risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those who rarely or never feel drowsy.  
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