If there was ever a time that pregnancy could be very scary, this is it. The Zika virus is one of the most covered medical issues across the globe right now, and for good reason. Currently there are 234 cases of pregnant women with Zika in the United States alone, and the Centers For Disease Control(CDC) has revealed that three babies have been born in the United States with Zika-related birth defects.
The virus is primarily transmitted through mosquito bites, though men can sexually transmit the disease if they were recently infected before a sexual act. On its own, Zika is fairly harmless. It comes off like a bad cold or a mild flu. In many cases, people don’t even know they have it. But, for a pregnant woman the virus can cause a unborn fetus to stop developing properly.
The CDC has been tracking the pregnancies of women with Zika infections since the beginning of this year when thousands of newborns in South America were born with microcephaly and other severe brain abnormalities.
Of the women the CDC is tracking, there have been six “abnormalities” – three babies born with birth defects so far, and another three who died before birth. Officials have declined to reveal how many of the women have given birth in total, and how many are still pregnant.
A study done in Colombia does, however, off a bit of hope for women who contract the virus late in their pregnancy. Researchers have found that women in their third trimester of pregnancy, who were infected with the virus show no immediate birth defects.
Dr. Margaret Honein, chief of the birth defects branch at The Centers for Disease Control said, “It’s somewhat reassuring that it looks like third-trimester infections aren’t posing a major risk of that very serious outcome.” Honein is one of the several authors of the study that was published online. She did stress that these findings are merely preliminary, and that “it is critically important” to continue following the babies, in order to see if other effects from Zika may crop up, such as hearing loss or vision issues.
The Colombian study included 65,726 cases of Zika, that were reported between August 9, 2015 and April 2, 2016. Of those women, the researchers knew that 1,850 pregnant women became infected within the third trimester. Of approximately 600 women infected during their third trimester, 90 percent of them delivered their babies, with none giving birth to a child with microcephaly or any other obvious birth defects.
In early April, most pregnancies in which women had been infected during the first or second trimester were still going on. However, some of these women have started to give birth. Honein said that there have been a “growing number” of problems, which she fears will only increase. She said, “I think the numbers are going to come up.” The Centers for Disease Control are working very closely with Colombian colleagues to figure out which cases are due to Zika, and which are possibly due to another cause.