NEWS

Zika Virus Causes Birth Defects:CDC

Federal health officials confirmed Wednesday that the Zika virus causes a rare birth defect and other severe fetal abnormalities, marking a turning point in an epidemic that has spread to
15 Apr 2016 10:13
Zika Virus Causes Birth Defects:CDC
Brazil Zika Virus

Federal health officials confirmed Wednesday that the Zika virus causes a rare birth defect and other severe fetal abnormalities, marking a turning point in an epidemic that has spread to more than 40 countries and territories in the Americas and elsewhere.

Scientists at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a careful review of existing research and agreed that the evidence was conclusive, director Thomas Frieden said. It is the first time a mosquito-borne virus has been linked to congenital brain defects.

 

CDC makes the conclusion

“It is now clear, and CDC has concluded, that the virus causes microcephaly,” Dr Frieden said. CDC is launching more studies to determine whether children with that rare condition, which is characterized at birth by an abnormally small head, represent the “tip of the iceberg of what we could see in damaging effects on the brain and other developmental problems.

“This virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought”

The outcome validates the growing research of past months that strongly implicated Zika as the culprit behind a broad set of complications in pregnancy. The pathogen is also increasingly linked to neurological problems in adults. The CDC report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, focused only on reviewing the evidence linking Zika and fetal anomalies.

Global health officials had already assumed the virus was to blame for the problems being seen in various countries. Since January, many have advised women who were pregnant or hoping to become so to avoid travel to Zika-affected areas or to take steps to avoid Zika infection. That medical advice expanded over time to include women’s partners, especially as it became clear sexual transmission of the virus was more common than had been known.

The research released on Wednesday won’t change that advice, officials said. But they are hoping it will help educate the public about the virus and its potential for harm – particularly in the United States.

 

Brain abnormalities found in

infected fetus in US

The researchers cited the recent case of a Washington, D.C. woman who tested positive for Zika 10 weeks after she likely contracted an infection during a trip to Guatemala – far beyond what scientists have thought is the case. Damage to the fetus did not show up on early ultrasounds. But after her abortion at 21 weeks, virus was found in the fetal brain and there were significant brain abnormalities.

Brazil normally has an average of 163 cases of microcephaly each year. But since October, officials have confirmed at least 944 cases of microcephaly or other neurological problems, according to the WHO.

After a Zika outbreak in French Polynesia, that island also had an increase in microcephaly cases. It normally has no more than two cases a year, but it saw eight cases during a four-month period in 2014. A recently published study using data from the island estimated the risk for the rare birth condition to be 95 cases of microcephaly for each 10,000 pregnant women infected in the first trimester.

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