A baby suffering from a birth defect caused by the Zika virus was born on Tuesday in New Jersey to a woman visiting from Honduras who is infected with virus after she was bitten by a mosquito early on in her pregnancy, media reported.
The baby girl is suffering from severe microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems, after she was delivered through cesarean section at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, New Jersey, the news website NorthJersey.com reported.
U.S. health officials have concluded that Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly. The World Health Organization has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.
The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last fall in Brazil, which has now confirmed more than 1,300 cases of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.
The unidentified premature newborn also suffers from intestinal and visual issues, Manny Alvarez, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Hackensack, told NorthJersey.com. "You could see the pain in her heart," Alvarez said of the mother, the website reported.
Hospital officials were not available for comment. The unidentified 31-year-old mother was staying with relatives after she arrived in the United States more than a month ago from Honduras, where she was bitten by a mosquito, Alvarez said.
Zika is carried by mosquitoes, which transmit the virus to humans. A small number of cases of sexual transmission have been reported in the United States and elsewhere. A case of suspected transmission through a blood transfusion in Brazil has raised questions about other ways that Zika may spread.
In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that a U.S. woman who had lived in Brazil gave birth to a microcephalic baby in Hawaii.
The Zika outbreak is affecting large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, with Brazil the hardest hit. Honduras is the Central American country with the highest number of Zika cases, with 19,000 infections, and at least 238 pregnant women infected. It has also detected at least 78 Guillain-Barre cases.
There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, which is a close cousin of dengue and chikungunya and causes mild fever, rash and red eyes. An estimated 80 percent of people infected have no symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to know whether they have been infected.