CDC Reports at Least Six U.S. Babies with Zika-Related Birth Defects

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Three women in the U.S. mainland infected with the Zika virus have delivered infants with birth defects and three others have lost or terminated pregnancies because their fetuses suffered brain damage from the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The agency said it was not providing details about where the births occurred to protect the privacy of the women and children affected by the mosquito-borne virus. The information released Thursday is the first time the agency has provided a total number of Zika-related birth defects since the start of the U.S. response earlier this year.

The problems include a rare and severe birth defect known as microcephaly, which is characterized by abnormally small heads and often underdeveloped brains, as well as an array of other fetal abnormalities.

Other complications include calcium deposits in the brain indicating possible brain damage; excess fluid in the brain cavities and surrounding brain; missing or poorly formed brain structures; abnormal eye development; and other problems resulting from damage to the brain that affects nerves, muscles and bones, such as clubfoot or inflexible joints, officials said. The problems are consistent with the damage caused by Zika virus infections reported in other countries with Zika outbreaks, including Brazil and Colombia.

The information released Thursday provides additional details about the impact of the virus on pregnant women in the United States. The agency is monitoring 234 pregnant women with Zika on the U.S. mainland who contracted the virus through travel or an infected partner.

Zika infections in Puerto Rico appear to be increasing rapidly, top U.S. health officials said on Friday, raising concerns for dozens if not hundreds of cases of microcephaly. Puerto Rican health officials on Friday reported that 1,726 people in the U.S. commonwealth have been infected with Zika, including a total of 191 pregnant women. That is up from a total of 1,501 total infections and 182 infections in pregnant women a week ago.

In February, the CDC detailed what happened to nine pregnant women in the United States who had been infected with Zika. Two of those women chose to have abortions; two others suffered miscarriages; one gave birth to an infant with serious birth defects; and two others delivered healthy infants.

Monday, June 20, 2016 / Vol. 24 / No. 24