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Scientists confirm Zika Virus causes birth defects

Scientists confirm Zika Virus causes birth defects

The Centers for Disease Control has finally confirmed what many feared about the mosquito-borne Zika virus now making its way through much of Central America.

The Zika virus can cause microcephaly - a condition in which an infant has an abnormally small brain and head - when the infant's mother is infected during pregnancy, according to a new report, published today (April 13) in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Zika is transmitted primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, which also spreads chikungunya, and dengue.

Experts have found "extremely severe" brain damage in babies born with a birth defect presumed to have been caused by the Zika virus. It also advised pregnant women's partners to who have been to Zika-afflicted regions to avoid unprotected sex, or better yet, abstain from sex.

On Monday, US health officials warned the Zika outbreak could have more of an effect on the United States and called for additional funding to combat the virus.

The CDC team hesitated before releasing the results, saying it "was so unprecedented" that a mosquito bite could cause birth defects "that we have, until now, waited to say that we have concluded that there is a causal link".

"This study shows the largest and most detailed case series of neuroimaging findings in children with microcephaly and presumed Zika virus related infection to date", the doctors from Recife, the Brazilian city at the centre of the global Zika health crisis, wrote in the BMJ.

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"This study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak", CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a statement.

The cases of microcephaly caused by Zika appear to be unusually severe, Rasmussen said.

"Everyone coming to the Games does need to take Zika and other mosquito borne diseases seriously", International Olympic Committee medical director Richard Budgett told insidethegames today. Microcephaly and other birth defects have been linked to the virus in French Polynesia, Brazil, Colombia, Panama, and elsewhere.

In addition to microcephaly and brain abnormalities, babies with Zika infections also have had eye problems that could cause blindness, extra scalp skin, clubfoot and arthrogryposis, a condition in which newborns' joints are stuck in either a flexed or extended position, according to the CDC report. Are women at risk if they get the Zika virus but don't develop symptoms? A few of those areas are Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba to name a few. Officials said the evidence is overwhelming that exposure to virus in utero causes the birth defect.CDC officials likened validating the evidence to piecing together a puzzle.

Earlier this week U.S. public health officials said that the Zika virus was "scarier" than first thought.

The analysis involved 23 babies diagnosed with a congenital infection associated with the Zika virus.

This is a map of Brazil showing cities with notified cases of microcephaly in Brazil up to February 13, 2016.

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