Whatever happened to the Zika babies?

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Thuana Regina is the sole carer of daughter Thaisa Vitoria, who was two years and eight months old when we met her. She has to take epilepsy drugs every day

Ever wondered what happened to the babies born after being exposed to the zika virus? It seemed like the world moved on pretty quickly after the hysteria of 2016. All the scare stories about a little-known virus that has seemingly come from nowhere and could threaten the health and development of babies all around the world.

But once it became clear that the outbreak in Brazil was subsiding we forgot about it pretty quickly.

The mothers and babies can’t move on quite so easily. They face a lifetime of dealing with the implications of the virus – which may be longer or shorter depending on the severity of the impacts. The toddlers are turning three about now.

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In Recife we met Duda, who was born with congenital Zika sydrome. She is being looked after by her Cleane Silva because her parents couldn’t cope

I travelled to Recife – epicentre of the outbreak – last year with photographer Simon Townsley to find out what came next for this piece on The Telegraph’s Global Health Security platform.

These are the the key points that will stay with me:

  • Almost all the mothers I spoke to had been left by their husbands or partners. There’s a lot of stigma attached to having a baby born with disabilities and they weren’t sticking around to help
  • We still don’t know what congenital Zika Syndrome means for the kids. The ones born with microcephaly were easy to spot, but more subtle effects may only emerge over time. Doctors I spoke to said the full toll could yet by three to five times greater than the 3000 babies initially identified
  • The rest of the world doesn’t much give a stuff once the threat to themselves as apparently faded
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