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1 in 7 babies exposed to Zika have birth defects, other health problems: CDC

1 in 7 babies exposed to Zika have birth defects, other health problems: CDC
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About 1 in 7 babies exposed to the Zika virus while in the womb have one or more health problems, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The study examined 1,450 children aged 1 or older born to women with the virus during pregnancy in the U.S. territories between 2016 and 2018.

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Of those children 14 percent had one or more health problems possibly caused by Zika. 

Six percent of those children had Zika-associated birth defects, such as small heads, brain damage or eye damage. 

Nine percent had nervous system problems possibly caused by the virus, such as seizures, developmental delays or problems with swallowing and moving, according to the CDC. 

One percent had both. 

“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.

“We are still learning about the full range of long-term health problems these babies could face."

The new study also shows many of the children exposed to Zika have not had the checkups recommended by the CDC. 

While 95 percent of the 1,450 babies had checkups within two weeks of age, only 36 percent received an exam by an eye specialist. 

"Because the full spectrum of adverse outcomes related to congenital Zika virus infection is not yet known, careful monitoring and evaluation of children born to mothers with laboratory evidence of confirmed or possible Zika virus infection during pregnancy is essential for ensuring early detection of possible disabilities and early referral to intervention services that might improve outcomes," the report said.

Zika is still a risk for pregnant women and their babies, the CDC said, even though transmission has declined around the world. 

It still spreads at low levels in many areas, and nearly 100 countries and territories are associated 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," the CDC said. 

The CDC also issued updated guidance for couples planning to become pregnant after possible exposure to the virus. 

Those planning to conceive should wait at least three months after symptoms or possible exposure or travel to or residence in areas with risks of Zika.