Birth defects seen in 6 per cent of United States pregnancies with zika

The report, published online in JAMA late Tuesday, details what happened to 442 Zika-infected women who completed their pregnancies between January 15 and September 22.

The authors say the United States findings fit with research from other countries.

In a press release issued Wednesday, the Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services recommends that all pregnant women who live in or have traveled to Brownsville be tested for Zika.

"Local spread of Zika virus by mosquitoes has also been reported in Mexico along the United States-Mexico border", the CDC added.

Twenty-one babies were born with birth defects; five of the cases were stillbirths, miscarriages or abortions - the researchers did not say how many of each. Of the 442 completed pregnancies, the researchers determined 26 infants had signs of birth defects, or approximately six percent. In Florida, 193 pregnant women have lab evidence of Zika, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Women who developed a fever and a rash were enrolled in the study and tested to see if they had Zika.

Microcephaly is characterized by abnormally small heads and underdeveloped brains.

In the blood of a patient infected with Zika, researchers have found key proteins that could help them create medicines and vaccines to fight the rapidly spreading virus.

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A recent report of infants in Brazil with congenital Zika virus infection documents how an infant can appear healthy at birth but later experience slowed head growth and microcephaly. The 18 infants who developed microcephaly accounted for 4% of the infants with birth defects. Although none of these women examined in the study were reported to have been infected with Zika within the United States, all were infected in regions with confirmed active Zika virus transmission; these areas are included on the CDC's list of regions to avoid travel to while pregnant.

The highest rates of birth defects appeared to occur when the pregnant women had the virus in the first trimester.

The researchers examined the infants born to infected women and found that 46% of the babies had health problems, compared with 11% of the babies born to uninfected mothers.

The group reported adverse outcomes - pregnancy losses or birth defects - in 55 percent of pregnancies in which infection occurred in the first trimester, 52 percent of pregnancies in which infection occurred in the second trimester, and 29 percent in which infection occurred in the third trimester.

Another study this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, done in Brazil by doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that among 117 infants born to Zika-infected moms, 42 percent had "grossly abnormal" clinical or brain imaging findings.

The CDC urges residents - especially pregnant women - to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

The report is the latest in a spate of research describing the inner workings of the Zika virus and the ways it does damage to pregnant women and their developing babies. And she speculates that Zika could cause other problems later on.

This Q & A will tell you what you need to know about Zika.

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