Zika Already Impacting Birth Defect Rates In U.S.

Mar 6, 2017

New information released by the Centers for Disease Control shows Zika is already having an impact on the health of newborns in the U.S., with a measurable increase in birth defects.

The March of Dimes wants Americans to take the threat of this emerging virus seriously.

Since 2013 when the Zika virus first showed up in the Western Hemisphere, the risk of having a baby with brain deformities and related birth defects has gone up in the U.S.



Before Zika hit, the odds of having a baby with microcephaly were 3 in 1,000. Now, if you are a pregnant woman who has been exposed to Zika, it’s 60 per 1,000. There is no specific information on the risk in Texas.

"It (the report) found a huge increase from Zika," said San Antonio pediatrician Larry O'Brien, MD, a local March of Dimes spokesperson. "We know it’s dangerous and it causes birth defects and this report brings that to light."

Texas has experienced a mild winter. That means the mosquito population will be robust this spring.

When a pregnant woman acquires the Zika virus, it can cause devastating birth defects like brain abnormalities.
Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio


Locally-transmitted cases showed up in Brownsville last November. The Zika virus could make its way to the mosquitoes in the San Antonio area.

O’Brien says mosquito repellent and mosquito abatement are still the best protection.

"If you’re pregnant, you don’t want to get Zika," he stressed. "It can cause miscarriages. It can cause severe birth defects. And it’s something that’s preventable."

No vaccine to protect against the Zika virus exists.