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    CDC highlights benchmark Zika data

    A new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides benchmark data from 3 states on birth defects prior to the Zika virus outbreak. Published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the population-based assessment underscores the relationship between the virus and neural tube defects and other early brain malformations.

    Birth defects data statewide in Massachusetts and North Carolina for 2013 and from 3 counties in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia for 2013 and 2014 formed the basis of the report. Population-based surveillance programs in those locations were chosen because they: (1) looked at all types of birth defects; (2) used active multisource case-finding; and (3) quickly provided individual-level data with sufficient detail to apply all inclusion and exclusion criteria.

    Prevalence of birth defects potentially related to congenital Zika virus among the 747 infants and fetuses reflected in the programs from the 3 states in 2013-2014 was 2.86 per 1000 live births (confidence interval [CI] 2.65-3.07) versus 58.8 per 1000 live births to mothers with laboratory evidence of possible infection that were recorded by the US Zika Pregnancy Registry from January 15 to January 22, 2016. During the pre-Zika era, the birth defects most commonly reported by the 3 surveillance programs were brain abnormalities or microcephaly (1.50 per 1000), followed by neural tube defects and other early brain malformations (0.88 per 1000).

    The finding of a 20 times higher proportion of one or more of the same birth defects during the Zika epidemic versus prior to its advent, the authors said, demonstrates the importance of population-base surveillance for interpreting data about birth defects potentially related to Zika virus. They concluded that the relationship between congenital Zika virus infection and birth defects is supported by the new epidemiologic data.

    Judith M. Orvos, ELS
    Judith M. Orvos, ELS, is a a BELS-certified medical writer and editor and an editorial consultant for Contemporary OB/GYN.
    Miranda Hester
    Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.

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