CDC Only Releasing Data on Zika-Related Birth Defects, Not Healthy Births

By Penny Starr | September 8, 2016 | 12:12pm EDT
This Feb. 12, 2016 photo shows two-week-old Sophia, born with microcephaly, at the Pedro I hospital in Campina Grande, Brazil. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are collecting data on women who are pregnant and infected with the Zika virus and the number of children born with birth defects, but they are not reporting the number of children born from virus-infected mothers who have no birth defects.

blog written by CDC Director Tom Frieden and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, reported that laboratory tests have confirmed that there were 1,595 women in the U.S. and its territories that are pregnant and infected with the Zika virus. They also reported that 17 babies from those pregnancies had been born in the United States “with birth defects related to Zika.”

CNSNews.com asked the CDC if it could provide the number of children from mothers infected with the virus who were born without birth defects.

A spokesman responded that the voluntary “registry” created by the CDC does not track those babies.

“We are only reporting the number of pregnant women in the registry and [the] number of adverse outcomes,” the spokesman said via email. “Bottom line is we're not reporting other outcomes because we are just beginning to understand the full spectrum of adverse outcomes associated with Zika infection in pregnancy.

“The decision was made to only report [the] number of pregnancies and adverse outcomes at this point,” the spokesman said.

“Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects,” the CDC stated on its website devoted to the Zika pregnancy registry.  “Infection during pregnancy has also been linked to adverse outcomes including pregnancy loss, and eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth in infants.

“Despite these observations, many questions remain about the risks of Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” the CDC added. “Information about the timing, absolute risk, and spectrum of outcomes associated with Zika virus infection during pregnancy is needed to direct public health action related to Zika virus and guide testing, evaluation, and management.”

In fact, there is evidence that many women infected with the Zika virus have healthy babies.

A June 28 article on the Medical Xpress website cited a recent report by the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that revealed 12,000 Zika-infected women gave birth to children without microcephaly.

“In Colombia, a study of 12,000 pregnant, Zika-infected women reported in the New England Journal of Medicine had not shown any cases of microcephaly,” the article stated, adding that there is no absolute certainty yet about the link between the virus and birth defects.

“The new report from Colombia states that there are a total of 11 confirmed cases of microcephaly with Zika infections until June 18, five more than the number confirmed as of the previous week,” the Medical Xpress article stated.

“The previous confirmed case, the sixth, was confirmed four weeks earlier. According to the NECSI analysis, it and the five other reported cases of microcephaly with Zika infections were consistent with the random co-occurence of each of them separately, and therefore should not be attributed to Zika as the cause,” the article stated. 

“The five new confirmed Zika and microcephaly cases provide the best evidence available for an impending microcephaly epidemic in Colombia,” the article stated. “In an updated report released today, NECSI points out that given the timing and number of Zika-affected pregnancies, the total can be expected to rise to 200 microcephaly cases in the next few months. 

“This means the rate of such births should rise dramatically, reaching over 10 microcephaly and Zika births each week, well above the background rate,” the article stated. “Whether or not Zika and microcephaly are linked will be conclusively determined from reports over the next few weeks.” 

The report also said that women infected during their third trimester were at little risk for their babies having any birth defects. 

According to a July 21 Pacific Islands Report article, 16 women had tested positive for having the Zika virus in American Samoa. Of those, the seven babies already born showed no signs of microcephaly. The remaining nine women were still awaiting childbirth, the paper reported.

Inside Edition published a story on Aug. 29 about a baby born to a Zika infected mother in Florida.

“Doctors in Florida will be monitoring baby Micaela Mendoza for many years,” the article stated.

“Born eight weeks ago to a mother infected with the Zika virus, the dark-haired infant does not have microcephaly, the trademark birth defect that has afflicted most exposed babies with abnormally small heads and brain damage,” the article stated.

"She looks normal to me, but the doctors say she’s not," the baby’s mother, Maria Ramirez Bolivar, told CBS affiliate WSVN-TV.

Doctors did discover calcification, or scar tissue, in her brain, and a circle-shaped scar in the retina of her left eye.

“Physicians at the University of Miami say they don’t know what effects those conditions will have on the child because so much about the virus remains a mystery,” the article stated.

The Mayo Clinic defines microcephaly as “a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex. Sometimes detected at birth, microcephaly usually is the result of the brain developing abnormally in the womb or not growing as it should after birth.”

The clinic lists a large number of causes for microcephaly, including fetuses being infected during pregnancy.

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