Oh No: Microcephaly Might Not Be the Only Birth Defect Linked to Zika

We've known that the Zika virus poses a huge threat to pregnant women for a while now...but it might be even scarier than we thought.

Pregnant woman in Puerto Rico Worried About Zika Angel Valentin/Getty Images
It's been definitively linked to microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development—and as if that weren't scary enough, we're now learning that the Zika virus might cause other birth defects as well. 

Pediatric neurologist Vanessa van der Linden, M.D., was one of the first researchers to connect Zika with microcephaly, and according to her findings, microcephaly is "just the tip of the iceberg."

Dr. Van der Linder spoke at a National Institutes of Health workshop, where she confirmed a fear scientists have held for a while now: When it comes to Zika, there's a whole slew of possible negative outcomes. 

According to Science News, there still aren't many clear-cut answers: Subtle defects (like learning disabilities and developmental delays) are potential outcomes, and the spectrum of possibilities is being referred to congenital Zika syndrome. 

The CDC has issued warnings urging American women to avoid travel to areas where Zika is spreading—but more recently, the virus has established a presence in the U.S. The CDC has reported locally-acquired cases in Florida, and pregnant women have been told to avoid travel to parts of the state as a result of this spread. We know that the virus can be spread sexually...and several outlets report that it may also be communicable by bodily fluids like sweat and tears.

Unfortunately, there are still so many unknowns where Zika is concerned. Researchers are attempting to learn as much as possible, and a vaccine is in the works—but for right now, so many question marks still exist. We'll update you as we hear more.