The number of confirmed cases of Zika among those living in the United States is steadily rising.
There have been 107 cases of Zika virus among U.S. travelers returning from Zika-infected areas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
The CDC also reported 40 locally acquired cases of the virus in U.S. territories. Thirty-five are in Puerto Rico, four are in American Samoa, and one is in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As I have noted, one of the most significant concerns associated with infection by the virus is a birth defect called microcephaly. This condition, associated with abnormal smallness of the head and incomplete brain development, occurs when a pregnant woman is either bitten by a mosquito or infected via other modes of blood-borne pathogen transmission.
New reports indicate that two pregnant women in this country who were infected with the Zika virus have chosen to have abortions, two others have suffered miscarriages, one woman gave birth to an infant with serious birth defects, and two others delivered healthy infants. The remaining two women who are under observation have not given birth yet.
One of the women who had an abortion was in her 30s and had contracted the virus during her first trimester while traveling to a Zika-affected area, the agency said. When she was 20 weeks pregnant, she learned from an ultrasound that her fetus was suffering from severe brain abnormalities. Doctors also tested her amniotic fluid and found the presence of Zika virus.
“After discussion with her health-care providers, the patient elected to terminate her pregnancy,” the CDC wrote in a case study released Friday. Officials did not offer details surrounding the second abortion, other than to say it involved another woman who had become infected with Zika during the first trimester of her pregnancy.
…Denise Jamieson, a CDC researcher helping oversee the agency’s response to the outbreak, said the number of brain abnormalities observed among the small group of pregnant women with Zika was higher than experts would have expected.
In the wake of this outbreak of a disease that was unknown except by a few medical experts until recently, rumors are arising faster than patient counts. One assertion that has been made is that Brazil, ground zero for the new epidemic, was over-reporting cases because of new definitions.
Before the outbreak, the seven states in tropical northeast Brazil where microcephaly first appeared reported about 40 cases of microcephaly a year. In October, neurologists in Recife, who normally saw microcephalic babies very rarely, found themselves treating five or more at a time. By Nov. 17, just those seven states had 400 reported cases. A month later, just one of them, Pernambuco, reported more than 600.
Eventually, the Brazilian health ministry decided that doctors were overreporting cases, so in December, it tightened its definition to include only children with heads less than 32 centimeters in circumference instead of 33. But cases continued to grow. Even previous undercounting would not explain the tremendous surge that followed Zika’s appearance.
Zika has now gotten a foothold in Puerto Rico, and one of the 117 people infected has developed the neurological disorder, Guillain-Barre.
It appears the ripples from the flood of infections from South America are now hitting our shores.
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