Sunday, 20 August, 2017

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

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Tracy Craig | 05 April, 2017, 02:37

"The number of pregnant women with laboratory evidence of possible recent Zika virus infection and the number of fetuses/infants with Zika virus-associated birth defects continues to increase in the United States", the researchers concluded.

The new information comes from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) registry for monitoring pregnant women who have potential Zika exposure.

'Zika continues to be a threat to pregnant women across the USA, ' said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat.

She noted that the March of Dimes is hosting and promoting "Zika Care Connect", a new website that will launch this month to assist Zika-affected families in finding healthcare professionals around the country who can provide specialized care. The analysis, which involved almost 1,300 pregnancies with suspected Zika infections across 44 states, shows that 1 in 10 pregnant women infected with Zika had either a fetus or a baby with birth defects.

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.

These birth defects included brain abnormalities or microcephaly (a condition in which the baby's head is abnormally small), eye abnormalities or other conditions that result from problems with the central nervous system.

The risk for birth defects was even higher, about 15 percent, among mothers infected during the first trimester of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest "Vital Signs" report.

One reason for the possible underestimation is that although the CDC recommends that all infants born to mothers who may have been infected with Zika undergo brain imaging, just 25 percent of the babies in the study underwent such brain imaging.

Only Texas and Florida have reported cases of local virus transmission, so women thus far remain at a very low risk in the U.S. However, if a woman is planning a pregnancy, she and her partner should be careful about their travel plans. She said the CDC is still receiving about 30 to 40 reports of pregnant women infected with Zika virus each week. "We can not identify all of the babies with serious abnormalities without the brain imaging".

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The team also analysed 250 women with definitive test results for Zika.

Note that this surveillance data from the CDC suggests that roughly 10% of Zika-infected babies in the USA have a Zika-associated abnormality.

Almost 1,300 pregnant women with evidence of possible Zika infection were reported to the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry. 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.

"It's important to look for abnormalities", said Dr. Peggy Honein, chief of the birth defects branch at the CDC.

Although microcephaly has been the most high-profile birth defect associated with Zika infections, congenital Zika syndrome is associated with a broad range of symptoms. Because of limitations of testing, only tests done within the first few weeks of Zika can test specifically for the Zika virus.

A pregnant womanstands outside a maternity hospital in Singapore, Sept. 1, 2016.

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

The report also found that about one in three babies with possible congenital Zika infection had no report of Zika testing at birth and that only one in four babies with possible congenital Zika infection were reported to have received brain imaging after birth.

The new study appears in the CDC's April 4 Vital Signs report.

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