Baby with Zika-linked defect born in US

NEW JERSEY • A baby with a birth defect caused by the Zika virus was born in New Jersey to a woman visiting from Honduras who was infected with the virus after she was bitten by a mosquito early on in her pregnancy, media reported.

The baby girl has severe microcephaly, a birth defect marked by small head size that can lead to severe developmental problems. She was delivered on Tuesday through caesarean section at Hackensack University Medical Centre, the NorthJersey.com news site said.

US health officials have concluded that Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly. The World Health Organisation has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that leads to temporary paralysis in adults.

The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last year 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 premature newborn also suffers from intestinal and visual issues, Dr Manny Alvarez, chief of obstetrics and gynaecology at Hackensack, told NorthJersey.com. "You could see the pain in her heart," he said of the mother.

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, Dr 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 US 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 US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said that a US woman who had lived in Brazil gave birth to a microcephalic baby in Hawaii.

The Zika outbreak has hit large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, with Brazil the worst hit.

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 per cent of people infected have no symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to know whether they have been infected.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2016, with the headline 'Baby with Zika-linked defect born in US'. Print Edition | Subscribe