Microcephaly 'the tip of the iceberg' — 4 in 10 Zika-infected babies may have serious birth defects

Approximately 4 in 10 infants infected with Zika virus in the womb may develop significant birth defects, according to a recently updated study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, researchers monitored the pregnancies of hundreds of women with Zika in Brazil. The researchers reported adverse pregnancy outcomes — including birth defects or stillbirths — in 55 percent of women infected with Zika in the first trimester. For women infected in the second trimester, 52 percent encountered pregnancy complications. For the third trimester, the rate was 29 percent. Forty-two percent of the infants experienced significant birth defects, including a spectrum of central nervous system abnormalties. Microcephaly was only detected in approximately 3 percent of the infants.

"Microcephaly is just the tip of the iceberg. It's definitely not where the focus should be," Karin Nielsen-Saines, MD, the study's senior author, told STAT. "For every case of microcephaly you're probably going to have 10 cases of other problems that haven't been recognized."

More articles on the Zika virus: 
4 more local cases of Zika identified in Texas 
HHS awards $40M to US territories for Zika fight 
Last zone of local Zika transmission lifted in Miami Beach

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