Anencephaly study shows no specific cause for fatal birth defect - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Anencephaly study shows no specific cause for fatal birth defect

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TRI-CITIES, WA - After a years-long study, there is no concrete explanation for a spike in a fatal birth defect.

Anencephaly is a neural tube disorder physically similar to microcephaly; one of the conditions associated with the Zika virus.

This study started when a health care provider in our area reported an unusual number of infants suffering from anencephaly.

Several possible causes were examined - including contamination from Hanford - but the only connection the health department could find was that all women in the study had low folic acid consumption early in their pregnancy.

The Department of Health says it's not uncommon to not be able to find a specific cause, especially when the actual number of cases - 45 total between Benton, Franklin, and Yakima Counties - is low.

If there is any silver lining from this study, initially health experts thought the rate of anencephaly was 4 times higher in the Columbia Basin than the rest of the state.

It turns out that some of that increase is actually due to additional reporting because of a growing awareness of the condition, so the actual spike is estimated to be much lower.

But unfortunately, there are still no real answers for what caused the spike, and if it will continue.