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birth defects

Birth defects

Neural Tube Defect (NDT) cluster in Washington State

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are serious birth defects of the brain (anencephaly and encephalocele) or spinal cord (spina bifida). They are important birth defects to monitor because they can be severely debilitating and even fatal, and yet in many cases are preventable through supplementation with folic acid before and during pregnancy.1

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported2 an abnormally large cluster of babies in Washington State born with neural tube defects, or NTDs. Among the cluster were 27 pregnancies over the three-year period from January 2010 to January 2013. Of these, 23 pregnancies were affected by anencephaly, 3 were affected by spina bifida (SB), and 1 with encephalocele. The anencephaly rate in this period in the three counties affected in Washington was four times as high as the national rate (8.4 per 10,000 live births vs. 2.1 per 10,000 live births), but the rate of spina bifida was only about 40% of the national rate (1.3 per 10,000 live births vs. 3.5 per 10,000 live births), suggesting that the more severe anencephaly may have displaced some SB births.

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