Estimating the Number of Pregnant Women Infected With Zika Virus and Expected Infants With Microcephaly Following the Zika Virus Outbreak in Puerto Rico, 2016

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Abstract

Importance

Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy is a cause of congenital microcephaly and severe fetal brain defects, and it has been associated with other adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes.

Objective

To estimate the number of pregnant women infected with ZIKV in Puerto Rico and the number of associated congenital microcephaly cases.

Design, Setting, and Participants

We conducted a modeling study from April to July 2016. Using parameters derived from published reports, outcomes were modeled probabilistically using Monte Carlo simulation. We used uncertainty distributions to reflect the limited information available for parameter values. Given the high level of uncertainty in model parameters, interquartile ranges (IQRs) are presented as primary results. Outcomes were modeled for pregnant women in Puerto Rico, which currently has more confirmed ZIKV cases than any other US location.

Exposure

Zika virus infection in pregnant women.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Number of pregnant women infected with ZIKV and number of congenital microcephaly cases.

Results

We estimated an IQR of 5900 to 10 300 pregnant women (median, 7800) might be infected during the initial ZIKV outbreak in Puerto Rico. Of these, an IQR of 100 to 270 infants (median, 180) may be born with microcephaly due to congenital ZIKV infection from mid-2016 to mid-2017. In the absence of a ZIKV outbreak, an IQR of 9 to 16 cases (median, 12) of congenital microcephaly are expected in Puerto Rico per year.

Conclusions and Relevance

The estimate of 5900 to 10 300 pregnant women that might be infected with ZIKV provides an estimate for the number of infants that could potentially have ZIKV-associated adverse outcomes. Including baseline cases of microcephaly, we estimated that an IQR of 110 to 290 total cases of congenital microcephaly, mostly attributable to ZIKV infection, could occur from mid-2016 to mid-2017 in the absence of effective interventions. The primary limitation in this analysis is uncertainty in model parameters. Multivariate sensitivity analyses indicated that the cumulative incidence of ZIKV infection and risk of microcephaly given maternal infection in the first trimester were the primary drivers of both magnitude and uncertainty in the estimated number of microcephaly cases. Increased information on these parameters would lead to more precise estimates. Nonetheless, the results underscore the need for urgent actions being undertaken in Puerto Rico to prevent congenital ZIKV infection and prepare for affected infants.

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