Pregnant women infected with Zika are 20 times more likely to give birth to children with central nervous system birth defects such as abnormally small heads, a study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.
Researchers compared data about early brain malformations, microcephaly, eye defects, and other central nervous system problems in babies born in 2013 – before Zika reached the US – to the children of mothers infected with Zika in 2016.
For healthy mothers, central nervous system birth defects appeared in about three of every 1,000 live births. By contrast, central nervous system abnormalities appeared in 60 infants and fetuses per 1,000 pregnancies when mothers were infected with Zika.
Zika fever (also known as Zika virus disease and simply Zika) is an infectious disease caused by the Zika virus. Most cases have no symptoms, but when present they are usually mild and can resemble dengue fever. Symptoms may include fever, red eyes, joint pain, headache, and a maculopapular rash. Symptoms generally last less than seven days. It has not caused any reported deaths during the initial infection. Mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other brain malformations in some babies. Infections in adults have been linked to Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS).
Zika fever is mainly spread via the bite of mosquitoes of the Aedes type. It can also be sexually transmitted and potentially spread by blood transfusions. Infections in pregnant women can spread to the baby. Diagnosis is by testing the blood, urine, or saliva for the presence of Zika virus RNA when the person is sick.
Prevention involves decreasing mosquito bites in areas where the disease occurs and proper use of condoms. Efforts to prevent bites include the use of insect repellent, covering much of the body with clothing, mosquito nets, and getting rid of standing water where mosquitoes reproduce. There is no effective vaccine. Health officials recommended that women in areas affected by the 2015–16 Zika outbreak consider putting off pregnancy and that pregnant women not travel to these areas. While there is no specific treatment, paracetamol (acetaminophen) may help with the symptoms. Admission to hospital is rarely necessary.
The virus that causes the disease was first isolated in Africa in 1947. The first documented outbreak among people occurred in 2007 in the Federated States of Micronesia. As of January 2016, the disease was occurring in twenty regions of the Americas. It is also known to occur in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Due to an outbreak which started in Brazil in 2015, the World Health Organization declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in February 2016. (Wikipedia).