For the first time, the CDC has disclosed the number of pregnant women in the United States and territories who have tested positive for the Zika virus, according to a report published today by the public health organization. In the United States alone, there are 157 individual cases that the CDC is monitoring, and another additional 122 in Puerto Rico, which has the largest number of cases so far for its area.
While the report details the number of cases, the CDC hasn’t yet provided specific information regarding the outcomes of any of these pregnancies. The largest concern, of course, is the development of microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. Earlier last month, the CDC announced that they had enough conclusive evidence to support the idea that infection with the Zika virus is causing microcephaly. In Brazil and other areas in South America, where the disease is rampant, there have already been hundreds of cases of babies born with the condition. At present, there is no effective treatment for Zika, no way to prevent microcephaly from occurring, nor a vaccine to prevent infection, though several vaccines look potentially promising.
This week saw two other important Zika announcements for the U.S. This morning, Obama is expected to meet with health officials, including the director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, and Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIH to discuss the country’s plan of action so far and for the future for Zika. Yesterday, the U.S. senate allowed $1.1 billion to be devoted to emergency funding for Zika.
It remains to be seen how many cases of microcephaly the United States and Puerto Rico will see, but there is substantial evidence showing how the virus affects developing fetus’ and may cause microcephaly.