Expert Panel Meets for the First Time to Discuss Fatal Birth Def - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Expert Panel Meets for the First Time to Discuss Fatal Birth Defect Spike

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State health leaders continue to search for answers about the alarming number of children born with birth defects in our area. State health leaders continue to search for answers about the alarming number of children born with birth defects in our area.
YAKIMA, WA - State health leaders continue to search for answers about the alarming number of children born with birth defects in our area.

Monday was the first official meeting for a panel of experts and community members to go over the results of an investigation looking into the fatal birth defect anencephaly.

For the past four years, the Washington State Department of Health said Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties have seen an abnormally high rate. A rate of 8.5 per 10,000 births instead of the of average rate of 2 per 10,000 births.

"It's a tragic thing, and it's important that we try to do what we can to find the answers out," said Donn Moyer, a Spokesperson for the WA State Department of Health. "It's a little bit frustrating at times when sometimes you have a situation like this, and you just can't get to a conclusion, and there's just no way of finding a similar or exact cause."

The State Department of Health said they haven't been able to find any common factors between the mothers yet. That's where the advisory committee will step in and look for anything that's been missed and what other directions could be taken.

But the Department of Health said even with an extra pair of eyes, it's going to be a tough investigation.

"While it is a really high rate, the total number of cases is small," said Moyer. "So we just don't have a lot of evidence and data to go on."

Don Dufault lost a son to anencephaly in the the1970s. He's still hoping the investigation will lead to some sort of answer.

"I know that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is very thorough in what they do, and maybe they can come up with something," said Dufault.

Expecting mothers are still largely encouraged to take folic acid.

The next step for the advisory panel is to do some of their own research and develop an action plan between now and their next meeting, which is scheduled for late July.
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