Zika caus­ing 10% birth de­fect rate in women in­fected by virus.

Women in­fected in first trimester

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Zika spawned a 10 per­cent birth de­fect rate in in­fected preg­nant women in the U.S. last year, the gov­ern­ment said Tues­day in a new study that shed light on the “sober­ing” risks of the mosquito­borne scourge.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, which re­ported the find­ings, said the prob­lem was par­tic­u­larly acute among women who were in­fected dur­ing their first trimester — a crit­i­cal pe­riod for fe­tal brain devel­op­ment — and that too few women are scan­ning their in­fants for prob­lems that can de­velop weeks or months af­ter birth.

“It re­ally reaf­firms to me how se­ri­ous this virus is,” act­ing CDC Di­rec­tor Anne Schuchat told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

The CDC looked at nearly 1,300 preg­nant women who had brushes with Zika in 2016, when the virus ex­ploded across Latin Amer­ica and be­gan to spread in Florida and Texas. Those with sus­pected cases of Zika had a 5 per­cent rate of virus-spawned birth de­fects, while those with lab-con­firmed cases showed a 10 per­cent rate.

For most peo­ple, Zika doesn’t carry a big im­pact, and many don’t even know they’re in­fected. But sci­en­tists last year es­tab­lished a link be­tween in­fec­tions and an alarm­ing spike in the rate of ba­bies born with ab­nor­mally small heads, or mi­cro­cephaly.

The CDC told preg­nant women to avoid any area with mos­quito-borne trans­mis­sion if they could, or to pro­tect them­selves against mos­quito bites if they had to travel to those coun­tries.

They also warned those who had trav­eled to in­fected ar­eas, or whose sex­ual part­ners had trav­eled, to use pre­cau­tions to pre­vent the dis­ease from spread­ing through sex.

Sci­en­tists said the Zika out­break marked the first time that an in­sect­borne dis­ease was tied to birth de­fects, and the prob­lems weren’t lim­ited to mi­cro­cephaly.

“I think the virus in this case was just as se­ri­ous we feared,” Dr. Schuchat said.

The new CDC study ex­cluded hard­hit Puerto Rico, look­ing in­stead at Zikare­lated preg­nan­cies re­ported in 44 states.

The women whose chil­dren had de­fects gave birth in the U.S., each of them were in­fected abroad in one of 16 coun­tries — mainly in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean, though the list spanned from the Mar­shall Is­lands in the Pa­cific Ocean to Cape Verde off the coast of north­west Africa.

The CDC re­viewed 1,297 preg­nan­cies with pos­si­ble Zika in­fec­tion from Jan. 15 to Dec. 27, in­clud­ing 972 com­pleted preg­nan­cies with re­portable out­comes — 895 live-born in­fants and 77 preg­nancy losses.

Birth de­fects were re­ported for 51 out of the 972 com­pleted preg­nan­cies. Among the sub­set of preg­nan­cies in which Zika was ac­tu­ally con­firmed, birth de­fects were re­ported in 24 out of 250 cases.

The CDC said 43 out of the 51 in­fants or fe­tuses with birth de­fects suf­fered from mi­cro­cephaly or other brain ab­nor­mal­i­ties, while the rest had eye ab­nor­mal­i­ties or cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem prob­lems with­out brain ab­nor­mal­i­ties.

The prob­lem was es­pe­cially preva­lent in moth­ers who were in­fected in the first trimester, with 15 per­cent of com­pleted preg­nan­cies — nine out of 60 — in the lab-con­firmed cat­e­gory ex­pe­ri­enc­ing birth de­fects.

The U.S. find­ings roughly align with pub­lished analy­ses of women in Rio de Janeiro and French Guiana that found a birth-de­fect rate of 10-13 per­cent among women in­fected in their first or sec­ond trimester.

The CDC is urg­ing Zika-af­fected moth­ers and their doc­tors to do fol­lowup test­ing, af­ter stud­ies showed that birth de­fects can de­velop months af­ter birth.

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