CDC: No Doubt Zika Virus Causes Microcephaly and Birth Defects

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made it official Wednesday in a publication rushed into the New England Journal of Medicine that the Zika virus causes birth defects.


“It is now clear … that Zika does cause microcephaly,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters in a briefing. “We believe the microcephaly is likely to be part of a range of birth defects.”



There were doubts at first that Zika, once thought to be a pretty harmless virus, could actually be causing birth defects. Until Brazil started raising the alarm, doctors didn’t think it even made most people sick. Mosquito-borne viruses had never before been known to cause birth defects, although other viruses, such as rubella, are notorious for causing them.

But study after study has shown the virus gets into the developing fetus’s brain, killing brain cells, stopping it from growing and, often, killing the fetus. And it seems to do so at all stages of pregnancy, not just in the first trimester, as most other viruses do.

It can be spread sexually and in the summer, when mosquito season starts, it is likely to cause local oubtreaks. It’s already caused outbreaks in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Samoa.

“Reducing exposure to mosquitoes for everyone where the virus is circulating is important,” Frieden said.

The Obama administration has asked Congress to appropriate $1.9 billion to fight Zika, but House Republicans say they don’t want to spend any new money until they are sure all other available funds are used.

In an unusual retaliation, the White House has freed up officials such as Frieden and the NIH’s Dr. Tony Fauci to plead for the cash and to outline what other programs will be cut if they don’t get it.



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