About 1 in 7 babies now 1 year or older who were born to women with Zika virus infection during pregnancy had one or more health problems possibly caused by exposure to the virus before birth, according to the latest Vital Signs report. Some of these problems were not apparent at birth.
About 4,800 pregnancies from areas with Zika (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands) in the U.S. Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registry (USZPIR) had a laboratory result showing possible or confirmed Zika virus infection between 2016 and 2018. From these pregnancies, 1,450 babies were at least 1 year old by February 1, 2018, and had any follow-up care reported to the USZPIR. Many of these babies did not receive all the recommended screenings for health problems potentially related to Zika virus. Careful monitoring and evaluation of these children is essential to ensure early detection of possible disabilities and referral to early intervention services.
“We know that Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious health problems in babies, such as birth defects and vision problems, including conditions not always evident at birth,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D. “We are still learning about the full range of long-term health problems these babies could face. We thank clinicians for their continued commitment to conduct all necessary tests and evaluations to ensure appropriate care.”
Follow-up evaluation of babies born to women with Zika virus infection during pregnancy
CDC recommends that all babies born to mothers with Zika virus infection during pregnancy receive a variety of screenings and care even if they appear healthy at birth. CDC scientists analyzed the most current data reported to the USZPIR to examine the follow-up care of these babies.
Data reported for Puerto Rico, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of the Marshall Islands showed opportunities for improvement in the screening and care these babies receive. For example, among the 1,450 babies included in the analysis, while 95 percent were reported to have had at least one physical examination after two weeks of age, only 36 percent were reported to have received the recommended eye exam by an eye specialist. Following the recommended screenings and care for these babies is important for more complete identification of health problems and timely referral to services.
Zika is still a threat
Zika virus is still a risk for pregnant women and their babies. In addition to the 4,800 pregnancies in the U.S. territories and freely associated states, nearly 2,500 pregnancies in U.S. states Zika virus infection; most infections occurred during travel.
Zika virus can be transmitted from the bite of an infected mosquito, from a pregnant woman to her developing baby, through sex, and through blood transfusion. Most of the cases in the U.S. states resulted from mosquito bites during travel to areas with risk of Zika. There are currently no areas with local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission in the continental United States. Though transmission has declined around the world, Zika virus continues to spread at low levels in many areas, and nearly 100 countries and territories are areas with risk of Zika. For this reason, CDC continues to urge pregnant women not to travel to areas with risk of Zika and recommends that men and women who travel to an area with risk of Zika wait before trying to conceive.
CDC releases updated guidance for timing of pregnancy after Zika exposure
This issue of CDC’s Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report also includes updated CDC guidance for couples planning to become pregnant after possible exposure to Zika virus.
CDC now recommends that men with possible Zika virus exposure who are planning to conceive with their partner wait at least 3 months after symptoms or possible exposure (travel to or residence in an area with risk of Zika). This shortened timeframe also applies for men who are not planning to conceive with their partners but who want to prevent passing of Zika virus through sex. These updated recommendations are based on emerging data, which suggest that risk of infectious Zika virus in semen appears to decline substantially during the 3 months after onset of symptoms.
All other Zika guidance remains unchanged. Men with possible Zika virus exposure whose partner is pregnant should use condoms or the couple should not have sex for the entire pregnancy to reduce the risk of transmission. CDC continues to evaluate all available evidence and will continue to update recommendations as new information becomes available.
For more information about Zika virus and pregnancy visit https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/zika/.
For more information about CDC’s guidance on care of infants and children born to mothers with possible Zika virus infections during pregnancy visit https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/zika/testing-follow-up/infants-children.html. For resources and tools to help track your child’s development visit https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/.
For information on CDC’s guidance for women and their partners trying to become pregnant after possible Zika virus exposure, visit https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/zika/women-and-their-partners.html.
About Vital Signs
Vital Signs is a CDC report that typically appears on the first Tuesday of the month as part of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report provides the latest data and information on key health indicators, and what can be done to drive down these health threats.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES