Roughly 5 percent of babies born to women infected with the Zika virus suffered from microcephaly or other birth defects, according to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research.
The study, published Thursday, found infants developed birth defects regardless of whether or not the mother displayed Zika symptoms. Researchers found birth defects in children born to 120 out of 2,549 women infected with Zika.
“The bottom line is that Zika infection, identified during any trimester of pregnancy, can lead to serious brain and other birth defects,” Dr. Peggy Honein, a CDC doctor who co-authored the research, said in a press statement.
Previous research found roughly 10 percent of pregnant women infected with Zika had a fetus or baby with a defect.
Zika virus infections in pregnant women have been linked to fetal deaths and microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to have abnormally small heads, according to the CDC. 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 virus is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which lives in tropical climates.
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 5,227 cases of Zika virus have been confirmed in the continental U.S. and another 36,581 in U.S. territories since 2016, according to the CDC most recent Zika update.
Of the 224 locally-acquired Zika cases in the U.S., 49 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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