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The WHO is expanding the list of birth defects that might be caused by Zika

Reuters/Denis Balibouse
It’s getting worse.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Only weeks after confirming that Zika is indeed linked to microcephaly, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced in its June bulletin that there might be a wider range of birth defects caused by the virus.

Beyond microcephaly, WHO says there is evidence of a connection between Zika and conditions that include seizures, cardiac issues, feeding difficulties, disproportionated faces and eye problems. As with microcephaly, these issues are believed to be caused by the virus attacking neuronal cells of the fetus while in utero.

To date, monitoring of Zika effects has focused on microcephaly cases, but WHO is advising that other consequences of exposure be considered part of a “congenital Zika syndrome,” whose definition is expected to expand as more is learned about the disease. Preliminary results from a survey of babies born from infected mothers in Rio de Janeiro found that 29% of them had some type of birth defect.

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