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Because testing for the Zika virus has become increasingly complicated, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now are recommending that women who are planning to get pregnant and recently traveled to a Zika-prone locale have their blood tested for Zika antibodies before they conceive. That way, a baseline reading could help better interpret Zika test results conducted during pregnancy.
The CDC also is recommending that pregnant women who may be at risk for infection be tested with two different Zika tests at various stages of their pregnancies. In addition, the agency is advising physicians to test women once per trimester using a different test that detects genetic material from the Zika virus.
Approximately 1 in 10 U.S. women infected with the Zika virus last year had a baby with serious birth defects. Screening for Zika is difficult because many infected people don’t have any symptoms and, therefore, are not likely to seek testing.
Officials also are concerned about the lack of neurological imaging among Zika-exposed infants who had a normal head size and appeared to be healthy at birth. Additional research has found that such babies may have underlying brain abnormalities that are not apparent until later in life. The CDC is urging that physicians order a head ultrasound or CT scan of healthy looking Zika-exposed babies to look for any abnormalities. Because not all at-risk babies are scanned after birth, scientists fear the numbers of infants with Zika-related birth defects has been underreported. Currently, only 1 in 4 at-risk babies are receiving brain imaging after birth.
According to Zika infection data released this spring, nearly 1,300 pregnant women in 44 states showed laboratory-confirmed evidence of Zika infection in 2016. About 970 of those women gave birth; 77 reported pregnancy losses, and 51 babies were born with birth defects, including 43 with microcephaly or brain abnormalities.
In Related News
- Brazil has declared an end to its national Zika virus emergency. The number of Zika cases declined by 95% between January and April 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Scientists believe that “herd immunity” in the population has taken hold, and the virus cannot find enough unprotected people to continue transmission.
- Researchers in April reported that a common backyard mosquito infected with the Zika virus can pass along the virus in its eggs. This is a concern because the Asian tiger mosquito — also known as Aedes albopictus — could hasten and expand the spread of the virus.
- Scientists have begun a Phase 2 trial of a Zika vaccine. It is the first time an experimental Zika vaccine has gone beyond initial safety testing. The trial is expected to conclude in 2019.
This blog provides general information and discussion about healthcare-related subjects. The content and linked materials provided are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader is an expectant mother with a medical concern, she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or healthcare provider.
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