Nine Pregnant Women in U.S. Diagnosed With Zika

     (CN) – Nine pregnant women in the United States have laboratory-confirmed Zika infections, resulting in two miscarriages and one severe case of microcephaly so far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
     Ten other pregnant women have reportedly been infected, however these cases are currently being investigated.
     The CDC said that two of the women with confirmed Zika cases gave birth to seemingly healthy babies, two of them elected to have abortions, and two others are still pregnant. Each of the women contracted the virus while traveling to areas experiencing local active transmissions, according to the CDC.
     This update adds to the fear accompanying the spread of Zika throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly among pregnant women, given the virus’ suspected connection to the congenial disorders microcephaly, Guillain-Barre syndrome and hydranencephaly.
     Researchers discovered hydranencephaly in the fetus of a woman in Brazil in January, and is characterized by the absence of the brain’s cerebral hemispheres to varying extents along with excessive fluid in a fetus’ cranium.
     Microcephaly is a congenial disorder that leads to reduced head size and brain damage, while Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system, leading to temporary paralysis.
     All of these disorders can result in death.
     Due to privacy concerns, the CDC did not clarify whether these cases include the three pregnant women in Florida that the state’s department of health reported Wednesday.
     “For the American public, the bottom line hasn’t changed from the time of our initial announcement. If you’re pregnant, avoid travel to a place where Zika is spreading. If you’re in a place such as Puerto Rico where Zika is spreading, do everything you can to avoid mosquito bites,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said Friday.
     One of the women had traveled to an infected area five weeks into gestation and began exhibiting symptoms a week later. She miscarried at the eighth week of pregnancy, and her fetus tested positive for the Zika virus.
     Another woman had traveled to an area with active transmission around her 11th week and after experiencing Zika-like symptoms, underwent tests.
     An ultrasound at week 20 revealed her fetus had a smaller-than-average brain and other symptoms consistent with microcephaly. After a discussion with her doctor, she elected to terminate the pregnancy.
     While a connection between Zika and the disorders remains uncertain, health officials said evidence will eventually prove the link.
     “We know Zika and microcephaly are associated although we do not yet have definitive proof that Zika infection alone is the cause of microcephaly,” Frieden said. “Although the evidence for this is getting stronger by the day.”
     Frieden said that while the spread of Zika and the number of Americans returning from areas with outbreaks were expected, the potential for sexual transmission has surprised the agency and presents additional threats.
     “We issued guidance indicating that men who live in or who have returned from a Zika-affected area use a condom if they have sex with a woman who is pregnant. Today’s report underscores the importance of that recommendation,” Frieden said.
     In an effort to combat the virus, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for a new antibody test Friday, which can detect whether a person has been infected by the Zika virus at some point.
     Antibodies are released four to five days after the start of illness, and can last for about 12 weeks. The tests will be distributed to laboratories that are certified to perform high-complexity tests.
     But the test is not always accurate and the potential for false positives and false negatives exists, the CDC said. This can stem from a person becoming infected by a similar virus, such as dengue, or because a person does not have sufficient antibodies to test – leading to a false negative.
     “As with any test, it is important that health care providers consult with their patients about test results and the best approach to monitoring their health,” the CDC said.

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