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March 27, 2018

Birth Defects Potentially Related to Zika Virus Infection During Pregnancy in the United States

Author Affiliations
  • 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
JAMA. 2018;319(12):1195-1196. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0126

Zika remains a health threat in the United States, and public health systems are essential to monitoring the full effect of congenital Zika virus infection on infants and children. Because some healthy infants born following pregnancies complicated by Zika may have developmental problems that become evident later, developmental milestones should be closely monitored throughout the child’s first years of life.

Zika virus can cause serious damage to the developing fetal brain when infection occurs during pregnancy. In addition to causing brain abnormalities and microcephaly, Zika virus infection during pregnancy has been associated with eye abnormalities, joint contractures, and potentially other birth defects and disabilities.1 From January 2016 through December 2017, 7054 pregnancies with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection in US states and territories were reported to the US Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registry coordinated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).2 However, the total number of mothers and infants in the United States affected by congenital Zika virus infection since the emergence of the virus in the Americas is likely much higher because many women with exposure to Zika virus in pregnancy were not tested or were not tested in a timeframe that allowed identification of the infection.

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