'There is still a lot that we don't know but there is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly'
Zika virus has been confirmed as a cause of the birth defect microcephaly and other serious birth defects, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC's findings are published in a special report in Wednesday's New England Journal of Medicine.
"This is a study that marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak. It is now clear, the CDC has concluded, that Zika does cause microcephaly," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said in teleconference.
Babies with microcephaly are born with abnormally small heads that can result in developmental problems.
The conclusion isn't based on a single piece of conclusive proof of a connection. Rather, the call was based on mounting evidence from several studies and a careful review of the criteria needed to determine if something causes birth defects, the agency said.
"There is still a lot that we don't know but there is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly. We're undertaking further study to look at the spectrum of disorder that the virus may cause."
'Messages will now be more direct'
The U.S. public health authority is not changing its precautionary advice to travellers, such as to prevent mosquito bites and sexual transmission. Those public health messages were based on preventing mosquito bites in general since the insects also transmit other viruses such as dengue and yellow fever.
"I think our messages will now be more direct," Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, CDC's director of the division of public health information and dissemination said. She hopes the news will prompt people to take precautions, given surveys suggest many Americans aren't concerned or know much about it.
With files from The Associated Press
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