Although Zika was first identified in 1947 in Africa, most people in the United States were unaware of the virus until recently. It was originally thought that the virus was fairly innocuous, as most people who came down with the disease had only mild symptoms, while others experienced no symptoms at all. But then around 2015, a large outbreak occurred in Brazil, and health authorities in that country soon noticed an alarming trend -- a growing number of babies were being born with a very serious condition known as microcephaly. Unfortunately, the virus is only spreading. As of August 2016, there were already more than 10,000 cases of Zika confirmed in the United States. Although almost all of these cases involved patients who had caught the disease while traveling abroad, there have been at least 40 locally transmitted cases reported as of August 2016. And while the possibility of being affected by Zika is frightening to all, it can be especially devastating for low-income families, who can ill-afford the extensive medical costs that often accompany the complications caused by this virus.
Microcephaly and Guillain-Barre
The biggest Zika-related concern in the United States right now is the virus's effect on an unborn child, most notably microcephaly. Babies born with this condition have a head that is significantly smaller than children of the same age and size. In addition, they may also exhibit the following signs and symptoms:
- Permanently rigid limbs
- Backward sloping forehead
- Delayed motor functions
In addition to microcephaly, Zika has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome. In this disorder, a person's immune system attacks its own peripheral nervous system, which can result in temporary or permanent paralysis. Some symptoms of Guillain-Barre include:
- Prickling sensation in the extremities, such as in the fingers or toes
- Problems with speech as well as with facial movements
- Weakness in one's legs and difficulty with walking
If you are in a low-income family and you believe that you or a family member has been infected by the Zika virus or if you have given birth to a child with microcephaly, your medical costs may be covered in part or in full by Medicaid. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued a bulletin to its state directors that outlined how its funds could be used to help treat people infected with the virus. In addition, the CMS also outlined how its funds could be used to prevent the spread of Zika. In Virginia, for example, this state's Medicaid program will now cover the cost of mosquito repellent, if prescribed by a physician.
And it's important to note that even though most people are infected by Zika while traveling abroad, researchers have discovered that the virus can also be spread through sexual contact with an infected person. In all known cases to date, the virus has only been transmitted from a man to a woman or from a man to a man, not from a woman to another person. Researchers have also discovered that the virus can remain in a man's semen for more than two months after his last symptoms.
Hopefully, you will not have any problems obtaining financial assistance through Medicaid, but if you should be denied aid and you believe that your family qualifies for assistance, it is important to consult with an attorney, especially one who has experience in appealing these types of decisions. Without aid, you and your family could be faced with potentially devastating financial costs, especially if you have a baby born with microcephaly. While some cases of microcephaly may be minor, other children may require lifelong and very expensive care. For additional assistance with applying for Medicaid, contact a location like Senior Solutions of Long Island, Inc.