Zika birth defects likely going underreported

WASHINGTON — The Zika virus causes birth defects in about one in 10 pregnancies of women who are infected, but it’s likely the numbers are higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only one in four babies born to Zika-infected moms get brain scans, the CDC reported, meaning that cases might be underreported and that babies might not be getting the help they need.

Following babies’ development over time reveals numbers of Zika-caused issues, according to Dr. Anthony Faucci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Some fetuses infected with Zika have an obvious defect: microcephaly (an abnormally small head due to the destruction of brain tissue). But all damage is not as obvious.

“There are some abnormalities that are subtle enough, that you can only see them by imaging the brains of the babies,” Faucci said, “such as hearing abnormalities, visual abnormalities, calcifications in the brain that could lead to mental impairment.”

Phase two of an advanced vaccine study is now underway.

“What we’re hoping for is that when we get a vaccine that’s effective that we’ll avoid all of this,” Faucci said.

Last year, pregnant women in 44 U.S. states showed evidence of Zika. Of those, most became infected by traveling to an area with Zika.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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