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Zika and birth defects: The risk is real

April 17, 2017—About 1 in 10 pregnant women in the U.S. with a confirmed Zika infection had a baby with a birth defect tied to the virus, a federal report shows. This is the most comprehensive national report so far on pregnancies affected by a known infection.

Last year, the federal government received reports from 44 states of some 1,300 pregnant women with possible Zika infections. Most were associated with travel.

Infection in the first trimester with this mosquito-borne virus posed the greatest risk: 15 percent of the women with a known infection in early pregnancy had a baby with a birth defect. And those birth defects can be severe. They include:

  • Small heads and damage to the brain.
  • Problems with vision and hearing.
  • Limb deformities.
  • Difficulty feeding and swallowing.

Learn more about the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and protecting yourself from a Zika infection.

Take precautions when pregnant

This report underscores the need for pregnant women to take every step possible to prevent becoming infected with the Zika virus. That means not traveling to areas with Zika, CDC cautions. Here's a look at possible hot spots to avoid. In addition:

  • Talk to your doctor about your travel plans if you are planning to become pregnant in the near future.
  • If you must travel to an area with Zika, protect yourself from mosquito bites. For example, use insect repellant and wear protective clothes, such as long shirts and long sleeves.
  • If you're headed to a hot spot, wait to get pregnant after traveling there and back. The Zika virus can be passed on during sex. In fact, it can be passed on by an infected person without symptoms. Check out these time frames for getting pregnant.
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