Zika Virus Causes Birth Defects, Health Officials Confirm

Apr 14, 2016

Photo credit: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

By Pam Belluck and Donald G. McNeil Jr.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that there was now enough evidence to definitively say that the Zika virus could cause unusually small heads and brain damage in infants born to infected mothers.

The conclusion should settle months of debate about the connection between the infection and these birth defects, called microcephaly, as well as other neurological abnormalities, the officials said.

“There is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the C.D.C. director. He said the conclusion, reached after evaluating “mounting evidence from many studies,” signifies “an unprecedented association” in medicine.

“Never before in history has there been a situation where a bite from a mosquito can result in a devastating malformation,” Dr. Frieden said.

He and other agency officials said they hoped that the announcement increased awareness and concern about the potential threat to Americans who travel to affected areas in Latin America and those living in Puerto Rico, American Samoa and Southern states where the virus is expected to arrive this summer.

The announcement may increase pressure on Congress to allocate more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding that President Obama requested for prevention and treatment of the outbreak. While C.D.C. officials did not address funding, Dr. Sonja A. Rasmussen, the agency’s director of public health information and dissemination, said the conclusion “emphasizes the importance of working on ways to prevent Zika infection,” including efforts to develop a vaccine.

“Surveys have told us that a lot of people aren’t concerned about Zika virus infection in the United States — they don’t know a lot about it,” Dr. Rasmussen said.

“Now that we can be more convincing that Zika virus does cause microcephaly, we hope that people will focus on our prevention messages more closely.”


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8 comments on “Zika Virus Causes Birth Defects, Health Officials Confirm

  • What a tragedy it is that precious resources and time have to be wasted on dealing with the atrocities caused by inadequate attention seeking religious maniacs, when everything should be focused on countering natural disasters and protecting our children.

    I do hope the anti-vaxxer ignoramuses are taking this in!



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  • Hi Stafford Gordon,

    I’d say the anti-vaxxers are paying attention and before long they’ll be blaming some vaccine or another for the birth defects. However there is hope that the rest of the population when confronted with the tragedy of such a birth defect in their own child may just well change their tune about vaccines. My father remembers none of this nonsense about the polio vaccine, given everyone knew someone who’d been effected. Especially if it ends up hitting the West in a big way. If we were sensible we’d start wanting to stop the spread of mosquito’s into cooler areas as well so perhaps some will realise they need to do something about global warming.



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  • @OP – He and other agency officials said they hoped that the announcement increased awareness and concern about the potential threat to Americans who travel to affected areas in Latin America and those living in Puerto Rico, American Samoa and Southern states where the virus is expected to arrive this summer.

    There are some hard lessons going to be learned, before politicians and the wider public get the message about the need for rigorous quarantine systems, regulation of global transport systems, and imported invasive species and diseases. .. . . . And that’s even before they have to recognise the effects of climate change opening up new areas to tropical weeds, pests and diseases, as the climate belts move towards the poles!



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  • http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/22-billion-people-are-risk-contracting-zika-virus

    Summer’s nearly here, and this is, unfortunately, good news for the Zika virus. As a new study published in the journal eLife reveals, it is likely to spread through warm, humid nations just above and below the equator, putting up to 2.2 billion people at risk.

    Although the virus is not particularly dangerous for most people, it has been conclusively shown to hinder the development of the brain of fetuses within pregnant women. In many cases, it appears to cause microcephaly – a condition wherein the brain is dramatically reduced in size. There has been at least one example where the virus has almost completely destroyed the entire brain of an unborn child.

    Studies mapping the virus have already been published, but this is the first to take into account a range of environmental factors not previously considered in detail.

    There are maps on the link showing a spread right across the world.

    This study also predicted that it will spread further northwards as summer comes to the United States, and that cities like Miami and Houston will start showing an increase in Zika infections.

    The northern tips of Australia to the eastern Chinese seaboard are moderate- to high-risk regions.



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  • people aren’t concerned

    Just read from local newspaper that pest exterminators are on stand-by, so here we go – prevention of hideous birth defect vs. more chemicals in environment that affects everyone.

    A win-win proposal by a southern Illinois mayor: ‘recycle tire day’ > less places for mosquitoes to breed, and hopefully turn into rubber mulch.

    This reminds me empty pot of rain water – love hearing croaking frogs that take up residence, but no to mosquitoes!



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  • Alan4discussion #3
    Apr 15, 2016 at 8:52 am

    There are some hard lessons going to be learned, before politicians and the wider public get the message about the need for rigorous quarantine systems, regulation of global transport systems, and imported invasive species and diseases.

    It looks like the global spread has already started!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-36346710

    Nearly 300 pregnant women in the US have tested positive for Zika virus, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    In the US, 157 pregnant women have tested positive for the disease and 122 have tested positive in US territories.

    Until now, the agency had not reported the number of women infected by the diseases in the US and its territories.

    The virus is spread through mosquitoes and sexual contact.

    It can cause microcephaly, a birth defect, marked by a small head size and can lead to developmental problems in infants.

    In Los Angeles, officials are taking prevention measures against Zika after health officials warned that outbreaks could be expected in Southern California.

    The outbreak began nearly a year ago in Brazil.

    The World Health Organization has said Zika virus could spread to Europe this summer.

    “Everything we know about this virus seems to be scarier than we initially thought,” Dr Anne Schuchat of the CDC said in April.

    Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama asked the US Congress for $1.9bn (£1.25bn) in emergency funding to combat the virus.



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  • It looks like the global spread has already started!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36343006

    The Zika virus strain responsible for the outbreaks in Brazil has been detected in Africa for the first time, the World Health Organization says.

    The WHO said it was concerned that the latest strain was spreading and was “on the doorstep of Africa”.

    It is currently circulating in Cape Verde, an archipelago off the north west coast of Africa.

    Zika has been linked to neurological disorders including babies being born with small brains.

    Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said: “This information will help African countries to re-evaluate their level of risk and adapt and increase their levels of preparedness.”

    She said African countries should raise awareness among pregnant women of the complications with the Zika virus and encourage people to protect themselves against mosquito bites and sexual transmission.

    But she said she would not recommend strict travel restrictions to try to stop the spread of the disease.

    There have been more than 7,000 suspected cases of Zika in Cape Verde, with 180 pregnant women thought to have been infected. The WHO says three babies have been born brain damaged with microcephaly.

    Until the virus was sequenced by scientists in Senegal, it was not certain if the outbreak in Cape Verde was caused by the African or Asian type, which has hit Brazil and other Latin American countries.

    Tests show that this is the Asian strain – the same as the one blamed for birth abnormalities in Brazil.

    There have been around 1,300 confirmed cases of microcephaly – babies born with small brains – in Brazil, with thousands more under investigation.

    A UK researcher said the Zika virus has been circulating at a low level in African countries for more than 50 years, so some of the population may already be immune.

    “It is likely that the South American, Caribbean and Polynesian populations had no prior immunity to the virus, so a high proportion of people who are bitten by infected mosquitos caught the disease,” said Dr Anna Checkley, of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, University College London Hospitals.



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  • As usual, politicians ignoring environmental and health issues, has serious consequences!

    http://www.medicalnewsmediasource.com/zika-outbreak-fuelled-by-mosquito-control-failure-says-who-boss-bbc-news/

    The spread of Zika is the price being paid for a massive policy failure on mosquito control, says World Health Organization leader Margaret Chan.

    Speaking at the agency’s annual World Health Assembly, Dr Chan said experts had “dropped the ball” in the 1970s with regards to getting a handle on disease-carrying insects.

    More than 60 countries and territories now have continuing Zika transmission.

    The virus is thought to cause serious birth defects during pregnancy and has been declared a global public health emergency.

    According to Dr Chan, outbreaks that become emergencies always reveal specific weaknesses in affected countries and illuminate the fault lines in our collective preparedness.

    Zika reveals an extreme consequence of the failure to provide universal access to sexual and family planning services,” she said.

    Dr Chan added that Latin America and the Caribbean, which have been hit hard by Zika, have the highest proportion of unintended pregnancies in the world.

    . . . . and I wonder what influences that obstructive failure in those countries?



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