A research group has estimated the number of pregnant women who might be infected with Zika virus and the number of microcephaly cases related to the Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico. They estimated that 5900-10,300 pregnant women might be infected and 100-270 microcephaly cases might occur.
Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus. In pregnant women, Zika infection has been associated with microcephaly (smaller than normal head and brain), other brain and limb malformations, and also with pregnancy loss. Puerto Rico reported the first locally acquired infection in December 2015 and until August 4, 2016, 5897 cases have been confirmed. Out of the 5897 cases, 901 were pregnant women and the first case of Zika-related microcephaly was diagnosed on May 13, 2016. However, as Zika virus is most dangerous for the fetus in the first trimester, more cases are expected as the outbreak worsens.
An American study group estimated the number of pregnant women infected with Zika virus and the number of Zika-related microcephaly cases and published their results recently in The Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics. The authors used a simulation technique to estimate the expected number of cases and they considered data from different mosquito-borne virus outbreaks in Puerto Rico and from the Zika outbreak in other countries. They estimated 5900-10,300 pregnant women might be infected during the Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico, and this might result in 100-270 microcephaly cases. As Zika virus is most dangerous for the fetus in the first trimester, most of the Zika-related microcephaly cases are expected to occur later than the infections.
The authors note that as 65.5% of all pregnancies are unplanned, increasing the access to effective contraceptive methods could prevent some of these estimated cases. Furthermore, preparing for the birth of babies with microcephaly might be necessary, and also disseminating Zika prevention kits for pregnant women might be effective to reduce the number of Zika-related microcephaly cases.
Written By: Dr. Fanni R. Eros