Puzzling rare birth defects in Eastern Washington

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — The state Health Department is trying to find the cause of an unusually high number of rare birth defects in south-central Washington.

There were 7 cases of the defect called anencephaly in 2013 in Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties for a rate of more than eight cases per 10,000 births. That's four times the national rate.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports (http://bit.ly/1tBLz46 ) health investigators are checking records and interviewing families and doctors. They're asking what the mothers ate, talking about pesticides, and looking at family histories; but so far there's no common factor.

Anencephaly is a fatal defect that occurs when the spinal cord fails to develop at the base of the brain.

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Information from: Yakima Herald-Republic, http://www.yakimaherald.com

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