More Birth Defects Seen in Parts of U.S. with Local Zika Spread

On January 25, 2018, the CDC published a report that found an increase in birth defects most strongly linked to Zika virus infection during pregnancy in parts of the United States that have had local Zika virus transmission. Areas with local transmission of Zika, specifically, southern Florida, a portion of south Texas, and Puerto Rico, saw a 21 percent increase in births with outcomes most strongly linked to Zika virus in the last half of 2016 compared with births in the first half of that year.


It is not known if this increase is due to local transmission of Zika virus alone, or if there are other contributing factors. Most of the mothers who had babies with the Zika virus-linked birth defects did not have laboratory evidence of Zika virus infection—either because they were not tested, were not tested at the right time, or were not exposed to Zika virus. All cases with birth defects potentially related to Zika virus infection are monitored by birth defects surveillance systems.


“Babies with Zika-related birth defects need all the help they can get, as soon as possible and for as long as they need it,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “This report highlights the critical importance of documenting birth defects possibly related to Zika and our need to maintain vigilance.”


The CDC looked at nearly 1 million births in 2016 in 15 U.S. states and territories, including Florida (select southern counties), Georgia (select metro-Atlanta counties), Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York (excluding New York City), North Carolina (select regions), Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas (select regions), Utah, and Vermont. Approximately three out of every 1,000 babies born in 2016 in the areas studied had a birth defect possibly associated with Zika virus infection in the mother. Of these, approximately half (49 percent) were born with brain abnormalities and/or microcephaly (small head size); two in 10 (20 percent) had neural tube defects and other early brain abnormalities; one in 10 (9 percent) had eye abnormalities without brain abnormalities; more than two in 10 (22 percent) had nervous system damage, including joint problems and deafness, without brain or eye abnormalities.


Because many pregnant women exposed to Zika virus in late 2016 gave birth in 2017, CDC researchers anticipate that there could be another increase in possible Zika-related birth defects when 2017 data are analyzed.


See the CDC Announcement


See the CDC Report


See also Medical Law Perspectives Report: Vectors of Risk: Zika, West Nile, and Similar Tick and Mosquito Disease Litigation


See also Medical Law Perspectives Report: Mothers, Infants, and Obstetrical Injuries: Labor and Delivery Liability Risks


See the Medical Law Perspectives Blog: Is Stillbirth Medical Malpractice Success Directly Proportional to Weeks of Pregnancy?


See the Medical Law Perspectives Blog: Florida’s No-Fault Compensation System for Severe Birth Injury Claims Fails Again