California will receive federal help this week to help identify and treat babies born with microcephaly, the devastating neurological defect caused by the Zika virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will give the state $720,000 to gather more information about microcephaly, refer more infants and families to health and social resources, and track outcomes down the line for infants born to Zika-infected mothers. In total, 40 states and U.S. territories will receive federal Zika grants in this round of between $200,000 and $720,000.
Zika is mainly transferred between people by the aedes mosquito and is widespread in several Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as in Puerto Rico. The mosquito isn’t common in the Sacramento region but can be found in larger numbers in Southern California and as far north as the Bay Area and Madera. Zika can also be sexually transmitted.
A woman infected with Zika during the first trimester of her pregnancy has up to a 13 percent chance of delivering a baby with microcephaly — a condition in which the virus destroys some of the baby’s brain cells, leaving the cerebral cortex malformed and underdeveloped. Most microcephalic babies have small heads and mental disabilities.
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The CDC funds will let California researchers pay more attention to babies with microcephaly born in the state. So far in California, 21 pregnant women have tested positive for Zika; all of them acquired the disease from travel to a Zika-affected area or through sexual contact with a traveler.
The CDC grant will let the California Department of Public Health spend more time and resources tracking those women during pregnancy and after delivery.
“Not every state on the West Coast was a recipient,” said CDC spokesman Bert Kelly. “These (recipients) are the states that are considered most at risk for the aedes mosquito.”