By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. health officials on Tuesday issued interim guidelines for health care professionals in the United States caring for infants born to mothers who traveled or lived in an area with Zika virus transmission during pregnancy.
The guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for pediatricians to work closely with obstetricians caring for pregnant women exposed to the virus during pregnancy, monitoring fetal ultrasounds and testing infants with signs of a birth defect called microcephaly marked by small head size.
The guidelines come after thousands of infants in Brazil were born with microcephaly, which was believed to be linked to Zika infections. In studies of the current outbreak in Brazil, genetic material from the Zika virus has been identified in studies of brain tissue, placenta and amniotic fluid from several infants with microcephaly and from miscarried fetuses from women infected with the virus.
Although Zika transmission has not yet been reported in the United States, mosquitoes that carry the infection are endemic to specific regions of the United States, and experts believe transmission is likely in the coming months as the weather heats up.
In the interim guidelines for pediatricians, the CDC recommends that infants with microcephaly born to women exposed to Zika while pregnant should be tested for the virus. For infants without microcephaly but whose mothers received a positive or inconclusive test for the virus, the guidelines call for the child to be tested for possible Zika infection.
The guidance also informs U.S. doctors that Zika is a nationally notifiable condition, meaning that suspected cases must be reported to state and territorial health departments.
No treatments or vaccines are available for Zika infections.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by James Dalgleish)
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