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Birth defects experts baffled at cluster of births with anencephaly in rural WA

Birth defects experts baffled by the cluster of birth defects in rural Washington State.
Birth defects experts baffled by the cluster of birth defects in rural Washington State.
Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Birth defects experts are stunned by the cluster of severe birth defects in a rural area of Washington State. This mystery has stumped the experts as the new cases of anencephaly are climbing, according to NBC News on Feb. 17.

These birth defects are rare in the general population, but in a three-county area surrounding Yakima Washington, they are seeing a much higher incidence of these birth defects occurring.

Anencephaly is a birth defect that is devastating, as babies are born with pieces of their brain and skull missing. While the women who have given birth to the babies in Washington State have not been interviewed, the stats researchers have collected are astounding.

The rate is four times greater in this area than it is for the general population’s national average. As of January of 2013, two dozen cases over a three-year period were noted.

Since 2013, more babies have been born with this often deadly and severely debilitating birth defect. While clusters of birth defects in the past have turned out to be “nothing more than sad coincidences,” this cluster is being looked into today.

A study of the high occurrences on the birth defect in the three-county area in Washington was the subject of a press release and it was posted on state and federal websites, but it is not known if the mothers who gave birth to the children with these birth defects ever came across this information.

No one has notified the families or reached out to talk to them. The researchers are not sure if the women knew they were part of a cluster. It was certainly noticed at the local maternity wing at Prosser Memorial Hospital, which is a 25-bed medical center servicing this rural area of Washington State.

A veteran nurse of 30-years at the hospital sees 30 deliveries a month. Over her thirty years she has seen one, possibly two cases of this birth defect. Within a six-month period she saw two and mentioned this to a doctor. He told her not only were they caring for the two, but another child was on the way with the same birth defect.

The nurse, Sara Barron, went to a regional conference and heard of more cases of this birth defect, this is when she notified the state health officials who started looking into all the cases of babies born with this birth defect in the area.

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