Zika causes birth defects in one in 10 pregnancies - US study

Zika causes birth defects in one in 10 pregnancies - US study

Zika causes birth defects in one in 10 pregnancies - US study

Of 250 pregnant women in the United States with confirmed Zika infections in 2016, 1 in 10 had a fetus or baby with Zika-related birth defects, the largest study so far of its kind has found, with levels similar to earlier reports from Brazil and French Guiana. "So we're encouraging clinicians who care for pregnant women with evidence of Zika exposure to follow CDC recommendations and ask pregnant women about possible Zika exposure, as well as work with them to provide follow up care for affected babies for a coordinated care plan to monitor baby development".

"Zika continues to be a threat to pregnant women in the United States", CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat says. "With warmer weather, a new mosquito season and summer travel, prevention is crucial to protect the health of mothers and babies".

Almost 1,300 pregnant women, in 44 states, had laboratory evidence of a Zika virus infection in 2016.

Overall, 51 of the 972 women, or about 5 percent, had a baby with birth defects related to the virus. But when a pregnant woman is infected, it is associated with her child's having an increased risk of birth defects, including microcephaly, which is characterized by an abnormally small head or brain and can result in diminished mental capacity or other developmental delays. It also can lead to congenital Zika syndrome, which is a pattern of birth defects that includes brain abnormalities, vision problems, hearing loss, and limb defects.

The study indicates that nearly every state reported at least one woman with a suspected Zika infection in pregnancy.

After that time, Zika tests can only detect antibodies developed by the immune system to fight the virus - but those tests cannot clearly distinguish between Zika and related pathogens, such as dengue and chikungunya, and they require further testing.

However, CDC officials say many infants are not being tested. But she added that most of the women included in Tuesday's report acquired Zika while traveling to an area where Zika was actively spreading in 2016, which includes Miami-Dade.

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It may be helpful to compare these Zika statistics to those for other viruses that cause birth defects.

"Based on reports to the Registry, many babies born to mothers with possible Zika infection are not receiving brain imaging after birth to help diagnose serious brain defects", said Peggy Honein, Ph.D., co-lead, Pregnancy and Birth Defects Task Force, CDC Zika Response.

Every mosquito bite carries a risk, Schuchat said, and therefore preventing mosquito bites is critical to keep pregnant women and their babies safe. The registry includes data from all the states, the District of Columbia, and all US territories except Puerto Rico, which has its own monitoring system.

The new report "confirms the now indisputable evidence that Zika has a great capacity to cause birth defects, especially in the first trimester", said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an affiliated scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore. That is because researchers may not have been aware of all the asymptomatic Zika cases: Some women without symptoms may not have gotten tested for Zika, and consequently, their cases would not be reported.

Of the 1,000 pregnancies that were completed by the end of the year, more than 50, or five percent, had Zika-related birth defects.

Forty-four states reported pregnant women with evidence of Zika in 2016.

Looking only at lab-confirmed cases of Zika infection, researchers found that about 1 in 10 pregnant women had a fetus or baby with birth defects. CDC experts published their findings today in a Vital Signs report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

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