CDC Confirms: Zika Virus Causes Microcephaly, Other Severe Birth Defects

The CDC confirmed today that there is no longer any doubt as to whether or not Zika virus causes birth defects. Federal officials came out and confirmed that Zika virus can cause severe fetal abnormalities, including microcephaly.

The CDC and other world health organizations have long suspected that Zika virus may be linked to microcephaly and other severe birth defects, but today the CDC confirmed that Zika does indeed cause these defects, reports The Hill.

"It is now clear, and CDC has concluded, that the virus causes microcephaly," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden today, confirming the long-suspected link between Zika virus and microcephaly and other birth defects.

Frieden spoke to reporters today, stating that the CDC has officially confirmed that the Zika virus causes birth defects including microcephaly. The findings come as little surprise to researchers and public health officials, who have seen the rise of microcephaly and other birth defects in locations around the world which have experienced outbreaks of the dangerous Zika virus.

The announcement today comes just after the CDC warned that the Zika virus is likely "much more dangerous" than previously suspected, as Inquisitr reported. Today's confirmation is the first time that a mosquito-borne virus has been linked to severe brain defects, including microcephaly. Frieden characterized the discovery as the "tip of the iceberg" stating that the research is still preliminary, and that Zika could potentially have further devastating effects that remain yet unknown.

"We do know that a lot of people aren't concerned about Zika infection in the United States and they don't know a lot about it. It's my hope that we can be more convincing that Zika does cause these severe birth defects in babies and hope that people will focus on prevention more carefully," said Sonia Rasmussen of the CDC's division of public health information.

According to The Hill, the CDC stated that there was no single piece of evidence that caused the public health organization to confirm the link between Zika virus and severe birth defects, but rather an analysis of existing research and other recent studies. The World Health Organization has cautioned in recent months that there was a strong scientific consensus that Zika virus could cause microcephaly and other neurological conditions like Guillain-Barre syndrome – a dangerous condition which can lead to full-body paralysis.

"The study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak. It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly," said Thomas Frieden of the CDC.

The announcement of a confirmed link between Zika and birth defects isn't the end, says Frieden; further research is going to be necessary in order to determine the extent to which Zika virus can affect unborn children and cause severe birth defects. The findings released today by the CDC mark the first time that a public health organization has made an official link between Zika virus and birth defects, confirming today what many researchers had cause to believe after statistical analysis of Zika outbreak sites.

The CDC reiterated today that the organization still cautions pregnant women from traveling to areas in the Caribbean and South America where the Zika virus is most prevalent, and that women in areas where Zika has been confirmed should be cautious and wear sunscreen or engage in pregnancy planning.

According to the Washington Post, there is still a great deal that is unknown about the Zika virus, including the rate of infection and further risks that the virus may pose to pregnant women. The rate of birth defects in children affected by Zika remains unknown, with some studies citing birth defect rates as low as 1 percent, while others cite birth defect rates as high as 30 percent.

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