Researchers have found more proof of the devastating effects of the Zika virus on developing fetuses. A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that pregnant women in the U.S. infected with Zika are 20 times more likely to have babies with certain birth defects compared with the prevalence of those birth defects prior to the Zika epidemic in North America.
The study aimed to determine how common certain birth defects were before the Zika outbreak compared to after the outbreak. Researchers focused on defects such as microcephaly, brain abnormalities, eye defects and central nervous problems. These conditions have been strongly linked to Zika infection, but can also be caused by genetic factors and other viral infections, or even unknown causes.
Birth defects in babies and fetuses of pregnant women infected with Zika range from microcephaly, a condition in which the head is abnormally small often resulting in underdeveloped brains, to vision problems, joints with limited motion, and malformations such as clubfoot. The highest prevalence of defects are brain abnormalities, including microcephaly, followed by neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
In mothers affected by Zika during the outbreak in the U.S., the proportion of infants with Zika-related birth defects was about 6 percent, or nearly 60 out of every 1,000 completed pregnancies. This number is about 20 times higher compared to live births prior to the Zika outbreak in the U.S., researchers said.
Health providers say the study showing the high risk Zika poses to developing fetuses highlights the critical need for early and accurate testing for pregnant women to give them a full range of options.
Source: Washington Post