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Zika virus: Birth defects rose fourfold in U.S. hardest-hit areas


 

FROM MMWR

The prevalence of Zika virus–related birth defects rose fourfold over preoutbreak levels in the areas of the United States hardest hit by the infection in 2016 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prevalence of Zika-related birth defects by level of transmission

That spike in the prevalence of brain abnormalities and/or microcephaly or eye abnormalities without brain abnormalities came during January through March 2017, about 6 months after the Zika outbreak’s reported peak in the jurisdictions with widespread local transmission, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, wrote Ashley N. Smoots, MPH, of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and associates in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In those two territories, the prevalence of birth defects potentially related to Zika virus infection was 5.6 per 1,000 live births during January through March 2017, compared with 1.3 per 1,000 in January through March 2016, they reported.

In the southern areas of Florida and Texas, where there was limited local Zika transmission, the highest prevalence of birth defects, 2.7 per 1,000, occurred during October through December 2016, and was only slightly greater than the baseline rate of 2.2 per 1,000 in January through March 2016, the investigators reported.

Among the other 19 jurisdictions (including Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Virginia) involved in the analysis, the rate of Zika virus–related birth defects never reached any higher than the 1.7 per 1,000 recorded at the start of the study period in January through March 2016, they said.

“Population-based birth defects surveillance is critical for identifying infants and fetuses with birth defects potentially related to Zika virus regardless of whether Zika virus testing was conducted, especially given the high prevalence of asymptomatic disease. These data can be used to inform follow-up care and services as well as strengthen surveillance,” the investigators wrote.

SOURCE: Smoots AN et al. MMWR. 2020 Jan 24;69(3):67-71.

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