Birth Defects Affected 1 In 10 Babies Whose Moms Got Zika - CDC

Toni Houston
April 5, 2017

"Although Zika may seem like last year's problem, or an issue confined to Brazil, there have been more than 1,600 cases in pregnant women reported here in the US", says the acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anne Schuchat. "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".

The findings stress the need to remain alert to the risks of Zika for pregnant women, especially in areas where mosquitoes are prevalent, said acting CDC director Dr. Anne Schuchat. She says with warm weather, a new mosquito season and summer travel rapidly approaching, prevention is crucial to protect the health of mothers and babies. "Healthcare providers can play a key role in prevention efforts".

The CDC reports a year ago, almost 1,000 pregnant women from 44 states had some evidence of recent Zika infection.

Almost 1,300 pregnant women with evidence of possible Zika infection were reported to the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry from January 15 to December 27, 2016.

Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause damage to the brain, microcephaly (smaller than expected head) and congenital Zika syndrome, a pattern of conditions in the baby that includes brain abnormalities, eye defects, hearing loss, and limb defects.

"We found pregnant women with Zika reported in at least 44 states".

Birth defects were reported in 15% of women who became infected with the virus during the first three months of pregnancy, known as the first trimester.

However, the CDC said many pregnant women are not being tested. Most of these women acquired Zika virus infection during travel to an area with Zika. She said the CDC is still receiving about 30 to 40 reports of pregnant women infected with Zika virus each week. Philip said that as of March 27, the health department was waiting for the CDC to deliver Zika test results for about 26 cases, including 16possible infections from 2016 and 10this year.

Schuchat said the number of affected babies and fetuses may be an undercount, because some likely went undetected, because babies either didn't get the recommended evaluation or because some problems, such as developmental delay, don't surface until well after birth.

As a result, some babies have seizures, others have little to no control over their arms and legs and can't freely reach out to touch things around them because of constricted joints, Schuchat said during a briefing with reporters.

Last year, a backlog of Zika test results led to hundreds of patients, majority pregnant women, waiting months to receive their results.

Most infections are spread by mosquitoes, but the virus also can be transmitted through sex and bodily fluids.

The CDC's registry data included all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and territories except Puerto Rico.

CDC guidance advises pregnant women to stay away from any areas with risk of Zika, including Miami-Dade, where state health officials in 2016 identified our areas with active spread of the virus.

Peggy Honein, co-lead for the CDC Zika Response Team's Pregnancy and Birth Defects Task Force, said the numbers show an undeniable increase in microcephaly and related neurological defects have increased due to Zika.

Only 1 in 4 babies with possible Zika infection were reported to have received brain imaging after birth.

Vital Signs is a report that appears as part of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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