Zika infection makes microcephaly 20 times more likely: new research

A new study has warned that Zika can drastically increases the chances of a fetus developing microcephaly or other birth defects, especially if the mother is infected with the dangerous virus during the first trimester.

While the mosquito-borne Zika virus causes only mild symptoms in adults, newborns face irreversible birth defects, including microcephaly, which is characterized by a smaller or malformed head and brain. It may also cause serious developmental delays in babies.

A team of experts analyzed data from the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry and compared it to birth defect data gathered from the state of Georgia, Massachusetts and North Carolina between 2013 and 2014. They estimated that the Zika virus increases the risk a fetus’ developing of certain birth defects by up to 20 times.

Dr. William Schaffner, an expert in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said, “We knew it was increased but we didn't know how much. These studies really nail what that increase is and ...it’s huge.”

Zika infection is commonly characterized by rash, fever, pain in joints and conjunctivitis. Nearly 20 per cent of infected people show symptoms.

The new study was detailed in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s latest issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.