Zika infection threatens 1.6M women of childbearing age

Up to 1.65 million women of childbearing age in Central and South America could be infected by the Zika virus before the epidemic is over, according to research by scientists in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

Their estimates were published in Nature Microbiology and reflect the sum of localized projections of possible Zika infections within every five km by five km grid in the region.

"These projections are an important early contribution to global efforts to understand the scale of the Zika epidemic, and provide information about its possible magnitude to help allow for better planning for surveillance and outbreak response, both internationally and locally," said Dr. Andrew Tatem, a professor at the University of Southampton in the UK.

Additionally, researchers found more than 90 million Zika infections are possible overall in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Brazil is projected to have the largest total number of Zika infections because of its size and suitability for transmission.

Zika is especially troubling for pregnant women, as the virus has been tied to birth defects like microcephaly. The CDC recently updated its guidance for healthcare workers on testing pregnant women for Zika; it now recommends that all pregnant women who have had possible exposure to the virus receive a Zika test, regardless of whether they show symptoms of infection.

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