Over the past three years, central Washington has seen unusually high numbers of babies born with a rare birth defect. No one has determined a cause. Public health officials are holding two listening sessions this week to learn more from community members.
For babies born with anencephaly, the rare defect is fatal. During the first four weeks of pregnancy, the baby’s brain and skull do not form completely.
There have been 23 babies born with anencephaly in Yakima, Benton, and Franklin counties from 2010 to 2013. Normally, health officials would expect to see one or two cases.
Investigators at the state health department compared healthy pregnancies to those involving children born with the defect.
They checked out risk factors: nitrates in well water, obesity, Hispanic ethnicity. Nothing seemed to be a cause.
Now, health officials are turning to the public for more clues, with two listening sessions this week.
Epidemiologists say they want to hear from people locally, who may know something investigators haven’t yet considered.
The sessions will be on Tuesday, May 13, in Sunnyside and Wednesday, May 14, in Kennewick. Both start at 6 p.m.
Copyright 2014 Northwest Public Radio