RECIFE, Brazil—Ever since 4-year-old Helena Miranda was born, she has struggled to move, hold her head up or swallow without choking—the result of brain damage after being infected with the Zika virus while in the womb. Her parents were at their wits’ end.
Then the new coronavirus pandemic hit.
Covid-19’s spread across Brazil has dealt a brutal second blow to babies born with Zika-related birth defects—more than 3,500 from mostly poor families who developed abnormally small heads and wide-ranging disabilities, a condition known as microcephaly.
Because of the pandemic and fears of infection, Brazil’s public health system suspended physiotherapy sessions and other treatments for these children, causing their conditions to worsen. Parents watched helplessly as their children’s backs grew more crooked and their muscles stiffened, often leaving them in excruciating pain.
There was also the fear that having caught one virus, the children might be vulnerable to another, vastly different type of infection.