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Find the people who can tell the story. Scrutinize death records. Isolate the levers that can create change.
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A mysterious cluster of rare, fatal birth defects has devastated families in three rural counties in Washington state. JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times shares key lessons from how she reported her award-nominated fellowship series.

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More than 40 members of Congress called for the FDA to allow folic acid to be added to corn masa on Tuesday. Advocates say such a move could help prevent devastating birth defects like those seen in three counties in Central Washington.

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Advocates have been urging the FDA to allow corn masa to be fortified with folic acid for years, with the goal of curbing rare birth defects among Hispanic children. The FDA hasn't budged so far, but that could change as the agency reviews new research.

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Washington state health officials say they’ll start telling families who’ve lost babies to a devastating birth-defects cluster about genetic studies aimed at decoding possible causes.

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Washington state Medicaid officials are changing the rule for coverage of vitamins that contain folic acid — a change that may reduce the risk of birth defects like those seen in an ongoing cluster in Central Washington.

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Washington is among 33 states that don’t have active birth-defects surveillance systems to track problems. It took an astute nurse to raise warnings about a cluster of rare and fatal defects in Central Washington.

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More than 40 mothers have lost babies to a rare and deadly birth defect in three counties in central Washington state since 2010, but the cause remains unknown. Why haven’t health officials and lawmakers done more to find answers?

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The federal Food and Drug Administration has agreed to review a long-delayed petition to fortify corn masa flour with folic acid, a move advocates say is crucial to preventing devastating birth defects like those seen in an ongoing cluster of cases in Washington state.

Picture of JoNel  Aleccia

A cluster of serious birth defects in central Washington state has led health officials on a search for the cause. Experts believe a lack of folic acid may be partly to blame, but efforts to fortify common Hispanic foods such as corn masa have languished. Fellow JoNel Aleccia investigates.

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