CDC Study Estimates 20-fold Increase in Birth Defects Related to Zika

PUBLISHED: Mar 6, 2017

The proportion of Zika-affected pregnancies with birth defects is approximately 20-fold higher compared with the proportion of pregnancies seen in 2013-2014, which is before Zika was introduced into the Americas, according to an article published the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The types of birth defects including: brain abnormalities and/or microcephaly, neural tube defects and other early brain malformations, eye defects, and other central nervous system (CNS) problems were seen in about 3 of every 1,000 births in 2013-2014. In 2016, the proportion of infants with these same types of birth defects born to women with Zika virus infection during pregnancy was about 6% or nearly 60 of every 1,000 completed pregnancies with Zika infections.

The researchers analyzed 2013-2014 data from three birth defects surveillance programs in the United States (Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Georgia) to provide the baseline frequency for Zika-related birth defects. To assess the effect of Zika virus infection during pregnancy, the scientists compared that 2013-2014 baseline number with previously published numbers among pregnancies with Zika virus infection from the US Zika Pregnancy Registry (USZPR) from 2016.

CDC continues to recommend that pregnant women not travel to areas with Zika. If a pregnant woman must travel to or lives in an area with Zika, she should talk with her healthcare provider and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika virus. Pregnant women with possible exposure to Zika virus should be tested for Zika infection even if they do not have symptoms.

The CDC recently released two new resources:

  • Healthcare Provider Toolkit for Obstetricians
  • Healthcare Provider Toolkit for Pediatricians

Links to the above resources and example policies related to prevention, screening and treatment of Zika Virus.

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