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The Population of Pregnant Women at Potential Risk of Zika Virus Infection

Posted by Steve Schram on May 27, 2016 at 10:36 AM

Originally published on May 26, 2016 on American Progress by Topher Spiro and Thomas Huelskoetter.

On May 20, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reported that 157 pregnant women in U.S. states and 122 pregnant women in U.S. territories had laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection. In this issue brief, the Center for American Progress estimates the state-by-state populations of pregnant women who will be at potential risk of Zika virus infection this summer and fall. Nationally, we estimate that more than 2 million pregnant women will be potentially at risk.

In most cases, the Zika virus spreads to humans via bites from Aedes species mosquitoes carrying the virus. The virus can also be transmitted sexually by men to their partners or from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Typical symptoms of the virus are mild: fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. However, the virus can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly and other fetal brain problems. It has also been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause muscle weakness and even paralysis. Given what is now known about the virus, pregnant women are at the highest risk for severe consequences from Zika virus infection.

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