Three U.S. women infected with the Zika virus lost or terminated pregnancies due to brain-damaged fetuses and three others gave birth to babies with defects, federal health officials reported Thursday.
The chilling revelations are the latest evidence of the mosquito-borne virus’ impact in the United States. Women can pass the virus to their fetuses, and the birth defects cited in the report were detected in infants infected with Zika, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said the new registry was created in anticipation that the virus will soon be transmitted by mosquitoes in the continental U.S.
“The information collected will be crucial for understanding the impact of Zika on pregnancy,” Hotez said.
The primary birth defect caused by Zika is microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development. Babies with the defect often have a range of problems including developmental delay, intellectual disability, problems with movement and balance, hearing loss and vision problems. The effects and severity of Zika-linked microcephaly become more apparent as children grow older.
Other birth defects can include calcium deposits in the brain indicating possible brain damage, excess fluid in the brain cavities and surrounding the brain, absent or poorly formed brain structures, abnormal eye development, or other problems resulting from damage to brain that affects nerves, muscles and bones, such as clubfoot or inflexible joints, the CDC said.