U.S. health officials say there's no longer any doubt that the Zika virus causes severe birth defects.
Experts had been cautious about making a definitive link despite a surge of babies born with a rare birth defect in Brazil during a Zika outbreak. The virus is mainly spread by mosquitoes, and no mosquito-borne virus had ever been known to cause birth defects.
But on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there's enough evidence now to declare Zika the cause of a birth defect called microcephaly and other brain abnormalities.
“This study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak. It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly. We are also launching further studies to determine whether children who have microcephaly born to mothers infected by the Zika virus is the tip of the iceberg of what we could see in damaging effects on the brain and other developmental problems,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
Frieden cautioned health care professionals to advise their patients to follow the agency's guidelines. "We are working to do everything possible to protect the American public.”
CDC officials said their advice to pregnant women won't change. Pregnant women should avoid traveling to places where the Zika virus is spreading, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean.