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Global scientists begin large study of 10,000 pregnant women in Zika-hit areas

A woman who is six months pregnant shows a photo of her ultrasound at the IMIP hospital in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, on Wednesday. Scientists are trying to figure out how Zika virus may be affecting fetuses. Brazil, on Wednesday. Scientists are trying to figure out how Zika virus may be affecting fetuses. Felipe Dana/AP

WASHINGTON – Researchers are beginning a study of up to 10,000 pregnant women in Puerto Rico, Brazil and other Zika-hit parts of Latin America, to better understand the virus’ threat.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced the study Tuesday, saying researchers will enrol participants starting in the first trimester and compare the birth outcomes of those who become infected with Zika and those who don’t.

READ MORE: These are the tell-tale symptoms of Zika virus, according to a new case study

Zika, spread mainly by mosquitoes, causes only mild symptoms in most people. But during pregnancy, it can cause fetal death and severe birth defects.

The Zika in Infants and Pregnancy study will track a variety of birth defects, how risk may vary by trimester — and if there are additional risk factors, such as prior infection with the also-common dengue virus.

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