After long suspecting a connection between the Zika virus and birth defects, doctors from the CDC scrutinized evidence and determined that the virus does cause defects such as microcephaly. They released a report definitively establishing a causal relationship, with the goal to increase prevention efforts for the devastating disease.

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Microcephaly can occur in babies whose mothers have been infected with the Zika virus, and results in a smaller head and brain in the child. It can lead to developmental delays, seizures, or disabilities. There’s no cure for microcephaly, although there are treatments that can help a child live a relatively healthy life, depending on how severe the case is.

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To establish a causal link, the CDC doctors investigated cases of babies whose mothers were either suspected or confirmed to be infected with Zika, including ones where the Zika virus was found in the brain tissue of the babies. They also looked into a phenotype that could help us understand how Zika causes birth defects.

They noted that there’s no sole example that establishes a link; rather, when the evidence is taken all together, it’s strong enough to verify a causal relationship. Additionally, some mothers infected with Zika won’t pass the virus on to their children.

Zika virus, Zika, mosquito, mosquitos, Zika mosquitos, microcephaly, birth defects

While there are still many questions, such as what other birth defects could be linked to Zika or whether the timing of infection matters, the researchers hope their conclusions will provide the impetus necessary to drive research and communication about Zika.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement, “We’ve now confirmed what mounting evidence has suggested, affirming our early guidance to pregnant women and their partners to take steps to avoid Zika infection and to health care professionals who are talking to patients every day. We are working to do everything possible to protect the American public.”

Via Discovery News

Images via Katja Schulz on Flickr and the CDC