Babies born to women infected with the Zika virus are more likely to develop health issues than previously believed, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers.
Laboratory testing found roughly 10 percent of pregnant women infected with Zika had a fetus or baby with birth defects. Zika virus infections in pregnant women are linked to fetal deaths and microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to have abnormally small heads.
The CDC found that 24 of the 250 pregnancies of Zika-infected women it tracked developed birth defects, including microcephaly, brain abnormalities or developmental difficulties. Fifteen percent of babies with birth defects were born to women who contracted Zika in their first trimester of pregnancy.
Children born with microcephaly can live productive lives, but infants with severe cases tend not to survive long. Laboratory studies have found the virus in the blood, tissue, brains and amniotic fluid of fetuses and babies diagnosed with microcephaly.
The World Health Organization estimates more than one million people in 52 countries and territories in North and South America have contracted Zika since 2015.
Some 5,182 cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in the continental U.S. and another 38,303 in U.S. territories, according to the CDC most recent Zika update.
Of the 222 locally-acquired Zika cases in the U.S., 45 were likely transmitted sexually and one by laboratory exposure. The vast majority of cases were from people who lived in Latin America.
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