Report: 6% of infants develop birth defects when mother has Zika
MelissaJenco, News Content Editor
Roughly 6% of infants or fetuses in the U.S. developed Zika-related birth defects
when their mothers had Zika virus infection during pregnancy, according to a new report.
The authors, who included experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), said the findings highlight the importance of protecting pregnant women from the infection and testing those who may have been exposed as well as their babies.
Researchers used data from the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry to analyze pregnancy outcomes
for women with possible Zika infection reported in the continental U.S. and Hawaii
from Jan. 15 to Sept. 22. Among 442 completed pregnancies, 26 fetuses or infants (6%)
had a Zika-related birth defect — 21 among the live births and five among the pregnancy
Roughly 4% of all exposed infants and fetuses were diagnosed with microcephaly, the birth defect that sparked initial concern about the virus earlier this year.
The microcephaly rate far surpassed the typical rate of 0.07% when Zika is not involved.
The rate of birth defects was the same regardless of whether the mother was symptomatic,
according to the report. However, the team found exposure in early pregnancy to be
especially concerning. About 11% of fetuses and infants had a birth defect when their
mother was exposed exclusively in the first trimester.
All of the mothers’ Zika infections were determined to be travel-related. Among the
women whose children developed birth defects, the exposure could be traced back to
Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti,
Honduras, Mexico, Republic of Marshall Islands and Venezuela.
“The findings in this report emphasize the need for pregnant women to avoid travel
to areas with active Zika virus transmission and consistently and correctly use condoms
to prevent sexual transmission throughout pregnancy if their partner has recently
traveled to an area of active Zika virus transmission,” authors wrote.