A study out today from the Center for Disease Control confirms what many researchers already believed to be true: the Zika virus does indeed cause microcephaly as well as a wide range of additional and severe foetal brain defects.
“This study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak. It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly,” said Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “We are also launching further studies to determine whether children who have microcephaly born to mothers infected by the Zika virus is the tip of the iceberg of what we could see in damaging effects on the brain and other developmental problems.”
In the report published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the CDC confirms the causal relationship between Zika and foetal brain defects, based on the review of mounting evidence. This distinction will help to focus efforts on prevention and allow researchers to start to answer other questions, like why some women who have Zika have healthy babies.
The CDC had already issued a travel advisory naming countries with outbreaks that pregnant women and their partners should avoid, as well as detailed steps to prevent mosquito bites from infected insects or sexual transmission of the virus. The Australian Government has also issued a bulletin. Zika has been confirmed in at least nine US pregnancies, including one baby born with birth defects. In Australia there have been at least 14 confirmed cases, including two pregnant women.