Targeted News Service
State health officials have released new data showing a rare birth defect in a three county area of the state remains above expected rates. The
Seven cases of the fatal birth defect anencephaly were reported in 2013 in
Anencephaly is a rare neural tube birth defect in which a baby's brain and skull don't fully form in the first month of pregnancy. Babies with anencephaly die soon after they're born. The causes of anencephaly aren't fully understood. Women can reduce the risk by taking folic acid. Because many women don't know they're pregnant until after initial brain and spinal cord formation, the
That phase of the investigation was inconclusive. There were no significant differences between infants with anencephaly and healthy infants in the area, yet medical records showed low rates of folic acid vitamin use for this area. This is consistent with information from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System that showed fewer women in the three counties report early use of prenatal vitamins or folic acid supplements than women in the rest of the state for 2009-2011.
Health officials are convening an advisory committee including national experts on neural tube birth defects; staff from the
Since the investigation began, local health officials have provided health care professionals in the region with prevention advice. Meanwhile, state and local health officials urge women of childbearing age to follow federal recommendations for taking folic acid daily. It can be taken as a supplement or in fortified foods. Women are advised to see a health care professional when planning a pregnancy and begin prenatal care in the first trimester. More information on anencephaly is available on the CDC Birth Defects website (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/index.html).
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