Congenital disabilities appear to be more likely among mothers who had Zika during their pregnancy. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention latest issue, Zika infections might increase the chances of brain deformation by 20 percent.

Along with several mild symptoms caused by the Zika virus in adults –including fever, rash, and joint pain – there might be other consequences for a developing fetus. New research shows that if a pregnant woman is infected, it can lead to microcephaly and other birth consequences.

The earliest during the pregnancy that a woman gets infected with Zika, the worst it is for the baby. Photo Credit: Felipe Dana / AP / Stat News

“We knew it was increased, but we didn’t know how much,” said Dr. William Schaffner of the increased risk of birth defects. He is an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center “These studies really nail what that increase is and …it’s huge.” He added.

Zika increases the chances of malformation in babies by 20 percent

The mosquito-borne Zika virus arrived in the United States last year, causing an alert in the country since there is no cure for it. Zika can cause diverse symptoms including rash, conjunctivitis, and fever among people. As well, it can lead to complications and death, though the death rate due to Zika complications is quite low in the US, according to the CDC.

Since last year, scientists prevented women from going to places where Zika cases were confirmed because they said that the virus could cause malformation in the developing fetus. However, they did not know how high the chances were for babies to born with defects because of Zika until now.

According to a new study published by the CDC in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, fetuses are 20 times more likely to have a birth defect if their mother had Zika during pregnancy. The report says that Zika can cause Microcephaly which occurs when the head and the brain are malformed or smaller than they should, causing severe development delays. Zika can also increase the chances of eye abnormality and central nervous system dysfunction.

2.86 infants among 1,000 live births had congenital disabilities caused by Zika

To get to these results, the researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry (USZPR), and they compared it to the birth defect data, collected in three different states, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Georgia.

The researchers found 26 infants and fetuses with congenital disabilities among 442 completed pregnancies corresponding to women who had a possible Zika infection. Therefore they calculated that 2.86 children among 1000 live births have a Zika-related birth defect.

“It’s these birth complications and complications in the fetus that make it a public health problem, and now it’s well-defined what the public health magnitude is,” Schaffner said. “It’s a lifetime of complex care for those babies.”

According to the study authors, the research has obvious limitations, but it is important to estimate the consequences of Zika in pregnant women.

As the weather starts to warm up again, public health officials are worried about the disease coming back again to the U.S from the Caribbean. Apparently, a new case has been already reported in Florida. If this is confirmed, it would be the first case of Zika in the US in 2017.

Source: The Atlantic