Number of pregnant women with Zika infections increases

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting nine additional Zika infections in pregnant women.

Eighteen cases of Zika have been diagnosed in pregnant U.S. women, up from the nine that the CDC has previously reported in detail.

Eight of the 18 women are still pregnant, while 10 have either delivered their babies or had abortions or miscarriages, according to the CDC.

All of the  women had traveled to an area with a Zika outbreak, according to the CDC. Zika virus is not yet spreading in the continental USA. At least 258 U.S. travelers have been infected with Zika while visiting the Caribbean or South America.

Zika is spreading widely in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, which are reporting three travel-related cases and 283 cases spread by local mosquitoes, including 35 in pregnant women. Zika is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The CDC has started a pregnancy registry to learn more about Zika-affected cases.

The CDC has reported details for the first nine of the pregnancies: one woman gave birth to a baby with microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development; two miscarried; two had abortions; two gave birth to healthy babies and two are still pregnant.

The number of Zika-affected countries with microcephaly cases is growing.

Doctors have diagnosed microcephaly in Cape Verde, an island off the coast of Africa that has been battling a Zika virus epidemic.

Researchers are investigating the case to see if it’s related to Cape Verde’s Zika infection, according to the World Health Organization.

Brazil, which normally had about 150 cases of microcephaly a year, has confirmed 863 cases of the condition in recent months, said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Brazil is investigating an additional 4,268 suspected cases of microcephaly. A handful of cases of microcephaly also have been diagnosed in Colombia, which also has a large Zika outbreak, he said.

There have been 7,490 suspected cases of Zika virus in Cape Verde between Oct. 21 and March 6, according to the WHO. About 165 of the cases involve pregnant women; 44 of these women have delivered without any complications or abnormalities.

In related news, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency approval for a new three-in-one test for Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses, which are all spread by the Aedes mosquito. The CDC hopes the new test will save time, because doctors will be able to test for all three viruses at once, instead of running three separate tests. The test uses a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique to detect genetic material from the viruses in blood. Because the Zika virus only stays in the blood for about a week, the test will only produce positive results during that time.

The CDC will begin sending to 150 labs around the USA on Monday, and also send the tests to countries and territories with Zika outbreaks.

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