US areas hit by Zika see 21% jump in birth defects

Parts of the United States that experienced local transmission of Zika virus in 2016 saw a 21 percent increase in birth defects associated with fetal exposure to the virus, according to the CDC's most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


For the report, the CDC examined nearly 1 million births in 15 U.S. jurisdictions and identified 2,962 infants and fetuses with birth defects potentially related to Zika virus in 2016.

Southern Florida, a portion of south Texas and Puerto Rico exhibited a 21 percent increase in birth defects between the first half of 2016 and the second half. All three areas experienced local Zika transmission that year. Among babies born with birth defects potentially linked to Zika exposure, 49 percent were born with brain abnormalities or microcephaly, 20 percent displayed neural tube defects, 9 percent had eye abnormalities and 22 percent experienced nervous system damage.

"Babies with Zika-related birth defects need all the help they can get, as soon as possible and for as long as they need it," said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD. "This report highlights the critical importance of documenting birth defects possibly related to Zika and our need to maintain vigilance."

The CDC could not officially attribute the 21 percent birth defect increase to Zika virus alone, as most of the infants with the birth defects were born to mothers who were either not tested for the virus, tested at an inappropriate time or not exposed to the virus at all.

To read the CDC's full report, click here.

More articles on infection control: 
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Study: Flu increases risk of heart attack sixfold

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