Health officials have announced that nine pregnant women in the United States have tested positive for Zika virus infections; the women got infected when they travelled to regions where the virus is spreading. Six other women in the U.S. have also contracted the virus through sexual contact.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that three babies have been born: two of which showed no signs of the illness, but the third one had severe microcephaly. Of the nine women, two decided to terminate their pregnancies, and two others had miscarriages.
Dr. Denise Jamieson, an author of the new report and a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that in one of the terminated pregnancies the foetus showed early signs of abnormalities.
The remaining two women are still continuing their pregnancies and there appears to be no problem with the foetuses so far. According to the report, ten more cases of pregnant women who might be infected with the Zika virus are currently undergoing medical investigations.
Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that the CDC has advised pregnant women not to travel to the areas where the virus is spreading and to also abstain from sex or use a condom, if their partner had travelled to such areas.
Zika virus infections are especially dangerous during early pregnancy and can lead to brain development problems later in pregnancy.
Of the nine women that were diagnosed with Zika, six of them had contracted the virus when they were in the first trimester of pregnancy. Two of the pregnant women experienced Zika infection symptoms in their second trimester of pregnancy, according to experts – one of those women gave birth to a baby that so far appears to be healthy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that not all people who get infected with the virus experience symptoms: only Zika-affected regions should get checked right after they return home, the CDC recommends.
The other six women in the new report got the virus through intercourse without protection. That took place during the time when their partners had symptoms of Zika virus infections, or shortly after the symptoms went away, the researchers said.
A previous paper published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers suggested that the case of a stillbirth to a woman in Brazil may have been linked with Zika. The infant had has problems outside of the nervous system and also did not have large part of the brain, according to the paper.
Further research need to be conducted to better understand the effect of Zika virus infections (during pregnancy) on the foetus’ health, including microcephaly – a neurological condition in which an newborn’s head is significantly smaller than the heads of other infants of the same age – stillbirth (usually defined as foetal death after twenty weeks of gestation), as well as other health problems.
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