Birth defects seen in US Zika pregnancies

It also showed that the rate of birth defects was the same for women who didn't show any signs of infection during their pregnancy as those that did.

A study out Tuesday provides a sense of the effects on women who were exposed while pregnant in other countries and then came to the United States.

In Texas, the CDC issued travel and testing guidance for Brownsville, in Cameron County, and designated the city as a Zika cautionary area, which it depicts in yellow on outbreak maps. Zika is primarily spread through mosquito bites.

The author of the US study said numerous USA -born babies may still be diagnosed with birth defects as they approach the age of 1, since evidence has shown the virus can continue to damage a baby's brain after birth.

Analyzing data from the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry, Honein and her colleagues found that among more than 400 women possibly infected with Zika, 6 percent had infants with one or more birth defects related to Zika.

The study was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Zika poses a real risk throughout pregnancy, but especially in the first trimester", said CDC chief Tom Frieden.

11 percent of the women, who had symptoms or were exposed to the virus in the first trimester, gave birth to babies with birth defects, but there was no reports of birth defects in women who were exposed to the virus in the second and third trimester.

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Twenty-one babies were born with birth defects and five of the cases were stillbirths, miscarriages or abortions. Defects included microcephaly, in which a baby's skull is small because the brain hasn't developed properly.

Fetal death or abnormalities occurred in 46 percent of babies from Zika-positive mothers, but in less than 12 percent of women not infected with the virus, the researchers found.

The report cautioned that its estimates are preliminary and could rise, particularly in light of recent research that showed some Zika babies appear normal at birth but go on to develop microcephaly in their first year of life.

To date, there have been 251 locally acquired Zika infections in Florida, and 16 cases in which the area of exposure has been undetermined.

"The recommendation is now to test pregnant women more broadly in that area", department spokesman Chris Van Deusen said.

"We're recommending pregnant women not travel to Brownsville, and if they do travel to that area, to ensure that they avoid mosquito bites and they avoid the risk of sexual transmission", the CDC's Dr. Denise Jamieson said in an agency news release.

The World Health Organization has more on Zika.

  • Regina Walsh