A total of 4575 Zika cases have been documented in the United States including 1172 pregnant women. We are now beginning to collect data on these pregnancies and the resultant births. It turns out that about 6% of Zika infected pregnant women in the US had a baby with at least one birth defect. This new research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The data was gleaned from a total of 442 Zika infected women who completed their pregnancies this last year in 2016. In stratifying this group it was discovered that those who were infected in the first trimester had an 11% chance of delivering a child was birth defects, higher than the average of 6% indicating that Zika poses the greatest risk earlier in the pregnancy. Moreover, these rates are on a par with what is being seen in Brazil at this time indicating that the virus is working in a similar way in both populations.
Personally I see these numbers evolving as the duration and post natal effects of Zika virus have yet to be fully described. CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) researchers have indicated that Zika can replicate in the fetal brain for up to seven months after the mother has become infected with the virus. They have noted that babies born to Zika are very likely to have brain damage even in the absence of obvious abnormalities like microcephaly and that the virus may keep replicating long after birth.
The CDC has added Brownsville Texas to its list of Zika travel advisories. This is because five locally transmitted Zika infections were recently reported. Texas has had a total of 274 Zika cases.
Also in Texas news, it has been discovered that a booklet titled “A Woman's Right to Know" was revised earlier this year to contain misinformation about the relationship between abortion and breast cancer risk. This booklet must, by law, be given to any woman seeking an abortion.
New research published in the journal Science Translational Medicine as reported that researchers have described two antibodies that appear to be important in the fight against Zika. Apparently these two antibodies were able to eliminate Zika virus in animal subjects in the lab. Hopefully we will hear more about this in the future.
In other news, fears about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act continue. Republican lawmakers are gaining appreciation for the ramifications of a fast repeal including the loss of insurance by over 50 million people and a huge loss of revenue for hospitals across the country, on the order of $165 billion dollars. Even with fear of a repeal looming, sign-ups for the ACA are occurring at a higher rate compared to this time last year. Moreover the Fed is extending the healthcare.gov deadline until Monday, December 19th.
Stay tuned for more exciting news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology, next week on Medical Monday.