Zika exposure before birth could cause health issues in babies: CDC

A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Tami Chappell/File Photo

(Reuters) - Some babies exposed to the Zika virus before birth may face health problems related to the mosquito-borne illness, U.S. officials said on Tuesday, providing guidance for couples planning pregnancies.

About 14 percent, or one in seven babies among 1,450 infants, had one or more health problems possibly caused by Zika, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a report.

The Zika outbreak - first detected in Brazil in 2015 - has been linked to thousands of suspected cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect marked by unusually small head size, eye abnormalities and nerve damage resulting in joint problems and deafness.

The CDC analyzed 4,800 pregnancies that occurred between 2016 and 2018 in U.S. territories for its report. The health problems - some of which were not apparent at birth - included brain damage, eye damage, small head size, seizures and problems with hearing.

In late January, the CDC said the virus could be responsible for an increase in birth defects even in babies whose mothers had no laboratory evidence of Zika exposure during pregnancy.

The latest findings underscore the continued need for follow-up care of babies which may have been exposed to Zika before birth, the CDC said.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar