An estimated one in 10 pregnant women with confirmed Zika infections had a fetus or baby with virus-related birth defects, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday. The Vital Signs report, released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the first to analyze a group of U.S. women with a confirmed case of Zika during pregnancy.
“Zika virus can be scary and potentially devastating to families,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the CDC, said in a statement. “Zika virus continues to be a threat to pregnant women across the U.S. With warm weather and a new mosquito season approaching, prevention is crucial to protect the health of mothers and babies. Healthcare providers can play a key role in prevention efforts.”
According to the report, in 2016 nearly 1,300 pregnant women from 44 states were reported to the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry. Of the 1,000 who completed their pregnancies by the end of the year, more than 50 had Zika-related birth defects. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious damage to the brain and microcephaly in developing fetuses. Affected babies may be born with brain abnormalities, vision problems, hearing loss and problems moving limbs.
The report noted that only 1 in 4 babies with possible congenital Zika infection were reported to have received brain imaging after birth. This information is crucial as babies with congenital Zika syndrome may appear healthy at birth but have underlying brain defects or other health complications related to the virus.
“Based on reports to the Registry, many babies born to mothers with possible Zika infection are not receiving brain imaging after birth to help diagnose serious brain defects,” Peggy Honein, Ph.D., co-lead, Pregnancy and Birth Defects Task Force, CDC Zika Response, said. “Healthcare providers have an important role, and we encourage them to ask about possible Zika exposure when caring for both pregnant women and their babies and to follow CDC guidance for evaluation and care of infants with possible Zika infection.”
Many of the women acquired the viral infection while traveling to a Zika-afflicted region.