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Research and Tracking

Accurately tracking pregnant women with Zika virus infection and their fetuses and infants can help answer the many questions about Zika virus infection during pregnancy. Understanding the potential impact of Zika virus infection during pregnancy can lead to recommendations, policies, and services to help prevent Zika and serve affected families.

Importance of Collecting Data About Zika Virus and Its Effects

Data collected through these efforts are used for the following:

  • Address questions about timing, risk, and the spectrum of outcomes linked with Zika during pregnancy
  • Improve counseling of patients about risks during pregnancy
  • Inform best practices for the care of pregnant women with Zika virus infection and their infants and children
  • Identify and refer children for services they need as early as possible
  • Help agencies prepare to provide services to affected children and families
  • Inform policies to allocate resources and services to help affected children and their families
  • Improve prevention of Zika virus infection during pregnancy

Zika Pregnancy & Infant Registries

In the United States

The  US Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registries are enhanced national surveillance efforts coordinated by CDC in collaboration with state, tribal, territorial, and local health departments to monitor the effect of Zika virus infection during pregnancy on fetal and infant outcomes.

The Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registries includes data from all states and territories. CDC works closely with states and territories to collect data on pregnant women with laboratory evidence of Zika virus infection and their infants, and follow infants through two years of age. The Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registries collect additional pregnancy-related information that is not currently available through standard case reporting, like gestational age, pregnancy exposures, and pregnancy outcomes. They collect longitudinal data– meaning data on mothers and babies over time to track outcomes and development.

Read more about the US Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registry »

Another key component of the Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registries is rapid birth defects surveillance to identify all infants with Zika-associated birth defects, regardless of whether there was Zika virus exposure or laboratory evidence of Zika. The Zika-associated birth defects that are part of the standard case definition include brain abnormalities, microcephaly, eye abnormalities, central nervous system defects, congenital contractures, and congenital deafness. This birth defects surveillance component closes the gap in reporting by including infants with birth defects and prenatal Zika exposure who may not be identified if the mother’s Zika infection was not detected during pregnancy. This innovative surveillance is key to monitoring the full impact of Zika on mothers and babies in the United States.

Read more about the Zika Rapid Birth Defects surveillance »

Proyecto Vigilancia de Embarazadas con Zika

This intensive surveillance system follows pregnant women with lab-confirmed or clinically-compatible illness of Zika virus infection and their infants in Colombia. It was established through a collaboration between CDC and Colombia’s Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) and the Colombian Ministry of Health. Information on pregnancy outcomes and infant pediatric visits is collected for up to 24 months after birth. Through this effort, CDC hopes to better understand the full range of potential health problems that Zika virus infection in pregnancy may cause, and the time of pregnancy when infection poses the highest risk to the fetus.

Programs and Research to Protect Mothers and Babies

Zika Local Health Department Field Support

To reduce the effect of Zika on mothers, their babies, and their communities, CDC launched the Zika Local Health Department Initiative (LHDI), which places highly qualified local field assignees in health departments. This initiative aims to increase response capacity and improve Zika pregnancy and birth defects surveillance, increase referral to services, and enhance provider and community outreach. Twenty-seven jurisdictions (across ten states, two territories, one freely-associated state, and Washington, DC) have received field support from field assignees of the LHD Initiative. The selected jurisdictions are primarily in areas with high risk of local transmission and/or with a high volume of travel-associated cases.

Goals of the initiative
  • Strengthens collaboration between public health and healthcare providers;
  • Provides a skilled resource hired locally to increase the capacity of LHDs to meet the needs of their communities;
  • Mobilizes the maternal and child health (MCH) community to collaborate with CDC, partner organizations, field assignees, and local and state health departments;
  • Engages partner organizations at the local, state, and national levels to support Zika response activities to share knowledge, skills, and expertise;
  • Leverages CDC resources to address the needs of mothers and infants.

This initiative aims to reduce the effect of Zika on mothers, their infants, and their communities through:

  • Increased surveillance and understanding of outcomes for mothers and infants
  • Increased testing, follow-up, and referral to services for mothers and infants
  • Increased LHD capacity to respond to Zika and future emergencies with MCH and clinical providers
Zika en Embarazadas y Niños en Colombia

To learn more about the longer-term effects of Zika virus infection during pregnancy, Colombia’s Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS) and CDC are conducting a longitudinal study, Zika en Embarazadas y Niños en Colombia (ZEN). ZEN is enrolling a cohort of pregnant women in the first trimester, their male partners, and their newborns. Infants born will be followed up to age 4.