Review Category : Health

New York Could Become First State to Ban Cat Declawing

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The state of New York may soon become the first in the nation to ban declawing cats.

A controversial legislative proposal was introduced in New York this week that would ban the procedure in the state. Some cat lovers and veterinarians believe that declawing is an inhuman procedure similar to amputating human limbs.

But one doctor tells ABC News declawing should be allowed, but as a last resort.

“There are circumstances when declawing may be indicated,” American Veterinary Medical Association President Doctor Joseph Kinnarney, a vet in Greensboro, North Carolina, told ABC News. “But our stand is that it’s really something that you really need to make sure that is warranted so you need to realize there’s a risk with anesthesia, there’s a risk of infection, there’s a risk of pain.”

When is declawing warranted?

“In the extreme circumstances where an elderly person who has a bleeding problem can’t control the cats sitting in their lap and get a little nick and then bleed, I would rather do that, than have a cat removed from her life,” he told ABC News.

Declawing is already illegal in Los Angeles and some other California cities. It’s also banned in Australia, the U.K., and several other European countries.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Fauci: ‘Forceful Preparation’ Key to Combating Zika Spread in US

ABC News(NEW YORK) — With “well over 500” cases of the Zika virus currently in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on “This Week” Sunday that “forceful preparation” will be critical to preventing further spread in the U.S. this summer.

“We already have Zika in the United States. But it is travel related,” Dr. Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.” “The concern is that we will have local transmission; in other words, people who get infected in the United States, get bitten by a mosquito, but who have never left the continental United States. We fully expect that that will happen as we get to the more robust mosquito season in the next month or so.”

“We need to make sure that those local outbreaks don’t become sustained and don’t become disseminated,” Fauci added. “That’s the reason why we need to have a very, very forceful preparation right now before that happens.”

The Centers for Disease Control released new figures on Friday showing that 157 pregnant women in the continental U.S. show evidence of possible Zika virus infection, all related to travel outside the U.S. President Obama has requested Congress to allocate $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the spread of the virus.

“This is something that is solvable. It is not something that we have to panic about. But it is something that we have to take seriously,” President Obama said Friday after meeting with Fauci and other top advisers tackling Zika. “This is not something where we can build a wall to prevent – mosquitoes don’t go through customs. To the extent that we’re not handling this thing on the front end, we’re going to have bigger problems on the back end.”

A vaccine to combat Zika would be the main focus of government funding, according to Fauci, saying “We’re right now very aggressively developing the vaccine.”

The Senate passed a $1.1 billion plan to combat Zika on Thursday, while House Republicans have advanced a separate $622 million bill that shifts previously established funds to combat the spread of Ebola. While efforts to prevent a widespread Ebola outbreak from West Africa to the U.S. were successful, Fauci called the idea of shifting those funds away from Ebola “very foolhardy.”

“We may not see it in the front page of the newspapers… but we have the danger of cropping up of Ebola,” Fauci said. “We can’t take our eye off the ball with Ebola. And that would really be robbing Peter to pay Paul and I think very foolhardy to do that.”

Asked whether concerns about Zika were being overhyped, ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said greater vigilance is always needed when dealing with a new virus.

“When there’s a new outbreak, a new infectious disease, you have to go all in, because you don’t know in the long run what it’s going to look like,” he said on “This Week.”

Concern surrounding the Zika virus has even prompted some countries and athletes to consider skipping the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, where the virus and potential birth defects were first spotlighted.

Dr. Besser urged pregnant women to follow CDC guidelines to not to travel to Brazil and other impacted countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean, and for those who plan on attending to be proactive to prevent mosquito bites.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Marine Veteran Charlie Linville Is First Combat-Wounded Amputee to Scale Mount Everest, Idaho) — A U.S. Marine Corps veteran made history Thursday as the first ever combat-wounded amputee to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville, 30, climbed the 29,029-foot summit of the highest mountain on earth with a prosthetic leg after being involved in a blast in Afghanistan in 2011 that left him with serious injuries to his right food and hand.

Linville, a father of two from Boise, Idaho, decided to have his right leg amputated below the knee after rehabilitation and reconstructive surgeries, according to The Heroes Project , an organization that leads mountaineering expeditions with gravely wounded veterans and active service members. Linville and his climbing partners battled winds of up to 50 miles per hour during the nine hours it took them to reach Mt. Everest’s summit.

This was Linville’s third attempt to reach the summit of Everest with The Heroes Project. The team canceled its climb in 2014 to honor the 18 Sherpas who died in an avalanche. Last year’s earthquake in Nepal ended the second attempt.

Also climbing Everest is former U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes, who lost his right leg in Iraq in December 2006 when an improvised explosive device (IED) struck his vehicle.

Jukes is climbing with a separate team — the USX Veteran Everest Expedition — which is believed to be about four days away from reaching Everest’s summit. The USX Veteran Everest Expedition’s team aims to honor veterans and raise awareness about their mental health.

“I have found great satisfaction and great happiness in getting to the outdoors,” Jukes told ABC News Thursday by satellite phone at 21,000 feet elevation on Mount Everest. “I think that a lot of people can share in that healing power.”

Jukes said he was never worried about being first to summit and that it doesn’t matter to him. He always wanted to do this climb to bring awareness to veterans’ issues.

The USX Veteran Everest Expedition’s climb is being led by Lt. Harold Earls the 4th, an active-duty soldier assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart in Georgia. Earls, 23, told ABC News the team is “feeling strong.”

“We are feeling really good, feeling strong and I think the team is going to be successful,” he said by satellite phone. “I think for our team, the fact that we are climbing for a cause makes it that much more meaningful and it and it is definitely what drives me.”

Earls continued, “We are raising awareness for soldiers’ mental health which is post-traumatic stress and soldier suicide so there are some staggering statistics. 22 veterans a day commit suicide, one active duty soldier a day commits suicide and that is more deaths per suicide than in the past five years in combat.”

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Customers Patiently Write Down Food Orders for Deaf Cashier

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A Texas man was unknowingly photographed at his job last weekend as customers learned he was hearing-impaired and began writing down their food orders.

The picture documenting the kind act was shared over 21,000 times on Facebook in just a few days.

“The story going viral,” Taylor Pope, 20, wrote to ABC News. “[It’s] so heartwarming to know there are so many good people in the world that lets me be their inspiration.

“My job isn’t always so fun but the only thing that makes it worth it is my co-workers and the customers.”

Pope was working his job as cashier and team leader at a Whataburger fast-food restaurant May 15 in Denton, Texas, when a stranger, Kolbie Sanders, was observing nearby.

Sanders, 21, told ABC News she had gotten off her shift waiting tables and tending bar when she and her boyfriend decided to grab something to eat.

“Whataburger is the only place that’s open late,” she said. “I realized the drive-thru line was too long. The inside line was kind of long, too, but I was already there and was going to commit.”

As Sanders got closer to the front of the line, she noticed cashier Pope mouthing to the customers, “I’m deaf,” she said.

“He smiled and got a pen and paper out of his pocket, and the woman said, ‘OK,’ and she wrote her order down,” Sanders recalled. “I thought that was very interesting because I work in the food-service industry and you don’t come across nice and patient people that often.”

“I wondered if someone was going to be mad and say something, but no one was,” she said. “Everyone was polite and that’s when I took the picture.”

Sanders posted the photo on her Facebook page with a caption detailing the event. It read, in part:

“… after seeing so many people bully others on a daily basis, I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to see these small acts of kindness demonstrated from so many different people. Seeing people forget their pride or their problems or even their hunger is something you don’t see often. But at the end of the day, it’s about others, not ourselves.”

After the picture received an outpouring of support, media outlets came calling for interviews and that’s when Sanders and Pope were able to meet, face to face.

“He and I text now, we’re friends and it’s pretty cool,” Sanders said. “[Pope’s] extremely shy, but you can tell by his eyes, he’s very kind and sweet. [Whataburger] is one of the only places that would hire him because he’s deaf. He’s hoping that since this story’s going viral, more people will be able to see the things he’s capable of doing.”

Pope’s mother, Jennifer Pope, told ABC news that Sanders’ Facebook post has boosted her son’s confidence.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “More of the fact that Kolbie took the time to write that and being so observant for what’s going on. For Taylor, it gave him a sense of pride that the hard work he’s done is paying off for him. He’s struggled in the past to fit in, so it’s great.”

Jennifer Pope added: “It’s been hard. He’s totaled his car and taking an Uber right now. It’s being the protective mom in me, wanting the best for him. Whataburger’s been really great for him, but he kind of wants to go beyond that.”

Her son said he has recently been promoted to team leader and is working hard in hopes of becoming manager.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Recall Related to Listeria Highlights Difficulty in Tracking Outbreaks

iStock/Thinkstock(PASCO, Wash.) — A massive voluntary recall of multiple food items that was implemented after a relatively small listeria outbreak has highlighted how epidemiologists are now using DNA to connect seemingly unrelated infections and improve food safety, according to food safety experts.

Earlier this month, CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington, expanded a voluntary food recall related to a listeria outbreak to include “all of the frozen organic and traditional fruit and vegetable products manufactured or processed in CRF Frozen Foods’ Pasco facility since May 1, 2014.”

The recall includes 358 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands, according to a company statement announcing the voluntary recall on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website.

An investigation launched by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that at least eight people had been hospitalized in relation to the outbreak that started in the fall of 2013 and that CRF Frozen Foods was the likely source of the outbreak. Of those sickened, two died, though the CDC said that listeria was not the direct cause of their deaths.

A full list of all products affected by the recall is at the FDA website and the plant is currently closed as inspectors search for a source of the outbreak, according to a spokesman for CRF Frozen Foods.

“In the next couple of weeks they’ll start sterilizing the plant,” CRF Frozen Foods spokesman Gene Grabowski told ABC News Friday. “Once the sterilization process is over they’ll call in the FDA inspectors and they’ll examine the plant and send swabs to lab.”

It could take weeks for the investigation, sterilization and inspection are completed, he said.

Food experts told ABC News that the duration and expanse of the recall is striking, but the fact that the recall was initiated after a relatively small outbreak shows new tools are getting better at catching food-borne outbreaks that might strike just a few people in different states.

Tim Jones, a food safety expert and epidemiologist with the Tennessee State Department of Health, said that this kind of outbreak is often a “nightmare” for epidemiologists looking for a source since listeria can incubate for up to 72 days.

“It affects pregnant women and infants and the elderly and immuno-compromised,” explained Jones, who is not involved in the investigation. “Try to ask anyone what they ate a month ago [or] try to interview someone in a nursing home or someone who is debilitated, it’s nearly impossible.”

Additionally, he said it’s an incredibly complex task to find a source of an outbreak when multiple foods are involved from multiple brands because patterns are very hard to find.

“To put all of this together and trace it back to a single producer — it’s a nightmare,” Jones said.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said the introduction of whole genome testing of bacteria and other infectious disease has allowed experts to identify “molecular fingerprints” in their database that help them determine the origin of an outbreak.

“I’m sure at the CDC the computers are trying to put together the molecular fingerprints of other listeria they have discovered,” Schaffner said. “This is very likely another example of … how our improved and constantly enhancing detection mechanisms actually determined an outbreak.”

Bill Marler, a Seattle-based food safety lawyer, said this use of genome testing has helped uncover major outbreaks in the past, including the Bluebell Ice Cream outbreak that was connected to at least 10 listeria infections.

“That is what is connecting the dots,” Marler told ABC News of the genome testing. “They are reaching back in time and finding these people” who were sick years earlier and were not yet connected to the outbreak.

Better listeria testing has helped improve safety standards in the food industry, Marler said, much as better testing in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s helped diminish E. coli outbreaks from ground meat.

“These kinds of technological advance will help figure out more outbreaks and will cause more recalls and when more recalls happen, the cost of the recall is expensive and that is what is going to drive industry to fix the problem before they have the problem,” he said.

People most at risk of listeria infection are young children, the elderly, pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems, according to the CDC. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion or loss of balance. The disease is especially dangerous for pregnant women, since it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of a newborn.

Of the estimated 1,600 people infected with the bacteria annually in the U.S., approximately 260 deaths occur due to listeriosis, according to the CDC.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Biotech Company and Patients Face Off to Gain Access to Their Genetic Tests

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A Utah-based biotech company that had refused to let four patients access their full genetic information has reversed course, a day before the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the federal government on behalf of patients in general.

Myriad Genetics provided the patients late Wednesday with genetic information they requested in February. The company described the move as “voluntary” and maintained that it was still within its rights to withhold other patients’ complete results in the future, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU filed a complaint on Thursday with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, calling on Myriad to release complete gene information to all patients whenever requested. The ACLU had originally intended to file a complaint on Thursday pertaining specifically to the four patients, but amended its complaint after Myriad’s about-face, ACLU officials said.

“The position Myriad took is akin to a hospital saying that patients can only have a portion of their MRI or a portion of their physical exam records,” said Sandra Park, senior attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, adding that the company’s prior withholding of the patients’ information “clearly violates the law.”

Richard Marsh, general counsel for Myriad, said in a statement on Thursday that company officials believe the Myriad “has acted appropriately, responsibly and in compliance with the laws and regulations governing patients’ rights to access their genetic data.”

“We believe the complaint lacks merit and should not be accepted,” Myriad added in its statement.

The four patients represented by the ACLU include two women who had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer, a man with metastatic bladder cancer, and his cousin. They all had changes in their DNA, known as gene variants, which were located in the BRCA genes. The BRCA genes, when mutated, are known to be linked to breast, ovarian and prostate cancers, among others.

Myriad classified some of these variants as “benign,” Park said, and as such did not include them in test reports.

In the case of one of the breast cancer patients, Myriad had told AnneMarie Ciccarella in March that the company had already included all unknown variants and those associated with cancer risk in its initial gene report to her, but that they were not required by law to provide the full data. The company, which keeps its data in a private database, also told Ciccarella that it “does not maintain much, if any, of the items” requested beyond what it then provided.

“Their response infuriated me,” Ciccarella said during a news conference Thursday.

However, the email Ciccarella received Wednesday from Myriad showed that there were in fact ten variants on BRCA1 and five on BRCA2 that had been classified as benign and omitted from the original report.

Ciccarella said she plans to share her test results with doctors and researchers to monitor whether the changes in her DNA could be tied to potential health consequences in the future. Making complete genetic information available to patients and researchers, she said, is necessary to advance scientists’ and families’ understanding of what these DNA variants mean.

Myriad, which keeps data in a private database, wrote to Ciccarella in March that it “does not maintain much, if any, of the items” requested beyond what it then provided.

However, the email Ciccarella received Wednesday from Myriad showed that there were in fact ten variants on BRCA1 and five on BRCA2 that had been classified as benign and omitted from the original report.

ACLU officials said they are checking to see if the information she received matches the complete set she is entitled to under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

HIPAA ensures that patients have access to their health and genetic information — not only the lab report, but also the “the full gene variant information generated by the test, as well as any other information in the designated record set concerning the test,” according to their guidance on genetic testing.

This is likely the first complaint seeking to enforce a patient’s right to access their own genetic information under HIPAA, Park said.

An HHS spokesperson was unable to confirm this, responding that their “complaint intake system currently does not collect data at this level of granularity.”

The HHS Office of Civil Rights will review the complaint and decide whether to open an investigation, according to Park, who also noted that it is not possible to sue under HIPAA.

HHS records show that it has not previously enforced its guidance against a company denying patients access to their own genetic information.

Myriad was also the focus of a 2013 landmark Supreme Court case, in which the judges unanimously ruled that human genes could not be patented. The company previously held a monopoly on genetic testing for the two BRCA genes. After the ruling, more labs began to offer the genetic tests at much lower prices.

Myriad also announced on Wednesday that it plans to open a web portal to provide patients access to their test results and health information.

A Myriad spokesman told ABC News Thursday in an email that “the first phase of the portal will be available by the end of the quarter,” though he did not directly confirm whether patients would be able to access full results through this portal.

“Myriad has a long track record of providing patients with free access to their test reports directly or through their healthcare providers,” the spokesman said in the email.

He did not comment on whether or how Myriad plans to provide complete genetic information in the future.

However, in a letter sent Wednesday to one of the patients represented by the ACLU, Myriad wrote that it had been in talks and “anticipates further discussions” with the HHS Office of Civil Rights.

Ciccarella said she strongly believes her genetic information belongs to her.

“My body, my blood, my data, my choice,” she said.

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CDC Reports New System for Monitoring Cases of Zika in US Pregnant Women

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday that there have been a few significant changes in the way it will be monitoring the number of women with Zika virus infections in the United States and U.S. territories.

Beginning now, the CDC will report the number of pregnant women with Zika virus infection from two new surveillance systems: the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry and the Puerto Rico Zika Active Pregnancy Surveillance System. Already, the case count of pregnant women with Zika virus has increased significantly under these new monitoring systems – but what does it really mean?

Here’s what you need to know:

What are the new numbers?

As of May 12, 2016, two Zika virus infection surveillance systems are monitoring:

• 157 pregnant women in U.S. states with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection • 122 pregnant women in U.S. territories with laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection

Why are these so much higher than the numbers we have been seeing?

Until Friday, the totals noted only 48 cases of pregnant women with Zika in U.S. states, and 65 such cases in U.S. territories. These numbers came from CDC reports that used a case definition established in consultation with the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists, which included only individuals who had laboratory test results and symptoms or pregnancy complications consistent with Zika.

However, recently published reports indicate that some pregnant women with laboratory evidence of a recent Zika infection without symptoms have delivered infants with microcephaly and other serious brain defects. Therefore, starting Friday, the CDC will report numbers of pregnant women with Zika from the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry and the Puerto Rico Zika Active Pregnancy Surveillance System, two systems designed to collect information about pregnancies and birth outcomes among women with any laboratory evidence of possible Zika virus infection, with or without symptoms.

When asked about the big jump in these numbers, the CDC stated: “We have been monitoring pregnant women with asymptomatic and symptomatic Zika infection since February. This is not a change in who we have been monitoring; the change is that we are now publicly reporting the number.”

Are all of these women still pregnant?

They are not, though the CDC notes that the majority of these cases are ongoing pregnancies. The CDC could not provide an exact number, however, on how many of these 279 women were still pregnant and how many were no longer pregnant for any reason.

How many adverse outcomes of pregnancy have been reported?

The CDC says it is not yet reporting the exact number of adverse outcomes (such as microcephaly, other birth defects and miscarriages) “out of concern for the privacy of those families.” The agency did mention that it was “aware of less than a dozen adverse outcomes [related to Zika].”

Is the CDC releasing the specific number of cases of microcephaly and other birth defects associated with Zika?

The agency has not at this point in time but it did not rule out the possibility that it would report these numbers in the future.

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Police Body Cam Captures Officers Saving Georgia Man’s Life with Automated Defibrillator

Justin Marion (CANTON, Ga.) — In response to dramatic police body cam footage showing the life-saving actions of two Georgia police officers after a man had a heart attack, a city council voted unanimously Thursday to have all of its police patrol cars equipped with the device the officers used to revive the man.

“It was so easy to save a life with an AED,” Canton City Clerk Susan Stanton told ABC News, referring to an automated external defibrillator. “Now, everybody is going to have them in their patrol vehicles.”

Justin Marion was in the middle of a barbell lift at a local Crossfit gym when he slumped over into unconsciousness, gym co-owner Karen Camp told ABC News.

“Everybody was standing there because no one necessarily knew what to do about it,” Camp said. “I think everybody was kind of in shock.”

Camp decided to perform CPR while responding officers were minutes away.

“I came over, checked for a pulse. He was not breathing,” Camp said. “He turned blue. I rolled him over and did CPR.”

Canton Police Officers Patrick Duncan and Jimmy Butler arrived at the gym, and their patrol car happened to be one of the few vehicles equipped with an AED. Their body cams show the frightening and intense situation unfold as they, along with Camp, coax Marion to hang in there as they attach the AED to the unresponsive man. Laying shirtless on the floor, Marion jerks from the shock of the AED. CPR is again performed by one of the officers. Marion starts to breathe.

“I don’t have any recollection of that day,” Marion told ABC News. “I spent the last three years focusing on my health, losing weight and getting in shape. This is the last thing I expected to happen to me. I thought I was doing everything right.”

Marion said doctors confirmed he suffered a heart attack and had significant heart blockage. The aircraft maintenance technician considers himself very fortunate after he said doctors told him only 10 percent of people who suffer such a heart attack survive.

“It was a miracle,” Marion said. “They [doctors] said they don’t usually get to have this type of conversation with patients.”

After the incident, the Canton City Council approved funding for the purchase of 17 more AEDs so that all 33 police patrol vehicles will be equipped with one.

Canton Police Chief Mark Mitchell said he is proud of officers Duncan and Butler.

“They are extremely professional officers,” Mitchell said. “They are hardworking. They don’t see themselves as heroes. They’ll tell you that’s what they do. They feel like that’s just part of their job.”

The officers, along with Camp, will be honored on June 2.

“I’m just very grateful that it turned out the way it did,” Camp said.

“I was incredibly fortunate that those Canton police officers were just a few minutes away and that particular unit was equipped with an AED,” Marion added. “If another unit responded that didn’t have an AED, I don’t know if the outcome would have been the same.”

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FDA Announces First Nutrition Label Change in 20 Years

FDA(WASHINGTON) — Labels on packaged foods are getting a nutritional makeover after the White House and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a major overhaul of the labeling process — the first such update in 20 years.

The new labels will make the calorie count more obvious and include a new line for added sugar like high-fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners. FDA officials said specifying how much added sugar is in products with both grams and percent daily value will help Americans make healthier choices.

Another new rule updates serving sizes that are more in line with amounts that people actually consume. For example, a serving size for 12-oz and 20-oz bottles of soda will now be listed as one bottle. FDA officials stressed the change is a more accurate representation of how much people consume in one sitting (and they are not encouraging individuals to drink more soda).

Labels will gradually change over the next two years before the deadline in 2018.

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Dramatic Increase in Number of Pregnant Women with Zika Monitored in US

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — Federal health officials are now reporting a dramatic increase in the number of pregnant women being monitored for possible complications related to the Zika virus based on recent evidence about the virus’ impact on pregnant patients who do not outwardly show symptoms of the infection.

The number of pregnant women being monitored after having a suspected Zika infection has more than doubled, from 112 to 279, in the U.S. and U.S. territories after changes made in reporting by officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC officials clarified Friday they were being more transparent after recent findings showed that even pregnant women who were infected with Zika virus but did not show symptoms had still given birth to children with birth defects.

Previously, only pregnant women with a laboratory-confirmed diagnosis and symptoms were being reported to the public, according to the CDC.

“We’ve learned a lot in the past four months and now we know of reports of asymptomatic Zika infection linked to microcephaly, miscarriage,” said Dr. Margaret Honein, chief of Birth Defects Branch at the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

Microcephaly is a birth defect in which the infant is born with an abnormally small head and brain, leading to significant developmental issues.

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