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New study finds Zika birth defects in 44 states across the U.S.

A new study reports 24 of 250 pregnant women with a Zika infection had a fetus or baby with birth defects related to the virus in 2016, per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zika infection can cause damage to the brains of developing fetuses, ranging from microcephaly and brain abnormalities to vision or hearing problems after birth. The CDC monitored 1000 mothers, mostly exposed to the virus during travel to other countries, living in 44 different states between January 15 and December 27, 2016.

Why it matters: This study suggests that Zika birth defects in the U.S. are higher than anticipated and shows the problem is no longer confined to the southern U.S. The report also found just 1 in 4 babies born to mothers with possible infection received brain imaging after birth to help diagnose defects, underscoring the need for healthcare providers not only to educate patients about Zika prevention but to provide clinical care.