The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday the results of a study that “marks a turning point” in the Zika virus outbreak. Cases of Zika, which is spread by two species of mosquitoes but can also be male-to-female sexually transmitted, have been reported in Tennessee.
CDC scientists, it said on its Web site, concluded that Zika is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.
A woman infected with Zika during her pregnancy has an increased but not, however, certain probability of having a baby with these health problems, the study found.
“We are also launching further studies to determine whether children who have microcephaly born to mothers infected by the Zika virus is the tip of the iceberg of what we could see in damaging effects on the brain and other developmental problems,” Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, director of the CDC, said.
“We are working to do everything possible to protect the American public.”
The conclusion, drawn not from a single piece of evidence but from evaluating many recent studies, is an “important step” in driving prevention efforts, focusing research and reinforcing the need to spread awareness about the risks of Zika, the CDC said.
The next step, in terms of research, now that a “causal relationship” has been found between Zika and birth defects, is to try to find a way to treat pregnant women who are infected.
The CDC’s prevention and best-practices guidelines remain unchanged:
-Pregnant women should continue to avoid travel to areas where Zika is actively spreading
-If a pregnant woman does travel to or live in such an area, she should talk with her healthcare provider and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.
-The CDC also encourages women and their partners, in areas with active Zika transmission, to engage in pregnancy planning and counseling with their healthcare provider so that they know the risks and the ways to mitigate them.
Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (A. aegypti and A. albopictus), but can also be spread during sex by a man infected with Zika to his partners. Most people infected with Zika won’t have symptoms, but for those who do, the illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. –From CDC.gov
Zika has not been yet transmitted by mosquitoes in the continental U.S., but there have been local cases of sexual transmission by someone returning from travel.
So far, the areas where Zika is being actively transmitted by mosquitoes are limited mostly to South and Central America, Oceana and the Philippines, and Cape Verde, Africa.
Travel-associated Zika virus disease cases reported: 346
Locally acquired vector-borne cases reported: 0
Total: 346Pregnant: 32
Sexually transmitted: 7
Guillain-Barré syndrome: 1
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