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Link Between Zika Virus and Birth Defect is Strong, CDC reports

Update Date: Jan 14, 2016 11:28 AM EST

Evidence suggests that the link between the Zika virus and a birth defect called microcephaly is very strong, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.

The Zika virus, which is carried and transmitted via the Aedes mosquito, has been affecting thousands of people living in Brazil. After health officials noted there were spikes in Zika infections and microcephaly, which is a birth defect that is characterized by an abnormally small head, they reasoned that the two could be link.

Brazilian authorities stated that in 2015, there were 3,530 cases of microcephaly. In 2014, the total number of cases was 150. Brazilian authorities have already advised women to delay pregnancy plans.

To further analyze this potential relationship, the CDC tested the placenta of two women who had miscarried and the brain tissue of two deceased newborns. From these tests, the experts found evidence of Zika virus in the placenta and brain tissues. Dr. Lyle Petersen, the CDC director of mosquito-born illnesses, called this finding "very significant."

"The evidence is becoming very, very strong of the link between the two," Dr. Peterson said but also noted, "It's possible that there may be some other co-factors involved."

A team of experts from the CDC is planning on traveling to Brazil over the next few weeks to conduct more tests. The experts hope that their studies can give them an idea of the exact risks involved for pregnant women.

"I don't think anybody has any idea how Zika is crossing the placenta into these fetuses, or why Zika is doing it and other closely related viruses like dengue don't," Scott Weaver, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, commented reported by CBS News.

The Zika Virus has been reported in several parts of Central and South America, such as Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela. More recently, a case was reported in Houston, Texas. The patient, however, had recently traveled to El Salvador, which suggests that the infection was most likely contracted there and not in the U.S.

There is no vaccine and no treatment options for a Zika infection, which is considered to be a pretty mild illness. Infected people are recommended to rest and drink fluids. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis.

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