Rare Birth Defect Cluster in Central Washington Making Headlines - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Rare Birth Defect Cluster in Central Washington Making Headlines Once Again

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Seattle Times reporter investigates rare birth defect cluster in Central Washington. Seattle Times reporter investigates rare birth defect cluster in Central Washington.

KENNEWICK, WA - Dozens of families in central Washington have dealt with the unimaginable: their babies had anencephaly. It's a rare birth defect that happens when the neural tube fails to close properly, causing deadly deformities to the brain and skull.

Benton, Franklin and Yakima Counties have about a five time higher rate of it than anywhere else in the nation. The Seattle Times printed a story investigating what's being done to research those 41 cases in just the last few years. Reporter JoNel Aleccia said she's been looking into this anencephaly cluster for a few years and just could not let it go. She discovered state health leaders have not done all they could to investigate possible causes of the birth defect.

"We found they haven't contacted all of the women who lost the babies to this disorder, they have not collected samples or conducted tests that could reveal potential links or environmental problems. And they actually haven't reached out effectively enough to tell families how they can prevent the problem, as well," said Aleccia.

Aleccia's article is already making waves. She said that as a result of her article the State Healthcare Authority, which oversees Medicaid, is making changes. Now, all women covered by Medicaid should be told they can get folic acid supplements and it's covered. Folic acid is the only known way to prevent anencephaly. 

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