A child was born in Hackensack University Medical Center Tuesday with an apparent Zika birth defect. Officials have stated the mother, a woman from Honduras, became infected in her home country.
Zika Birth Defect Symptoms
The baby suffers from microcephaly, a condition resulting in an abnormally small head, leading to an underdeveloped brain and lifelong cognitive disabilities. Dr. Manny Alvarez, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at the hospital said the 31 year old woman had obtained a diagnosis prior to coming to visit relatives in New Jersey. When she was seen by doctors at Hackensack, a number of complications led them to believe a Cesarean section was the best choice for the child, including low amniotic fluid and gestational weight. Doctors immediately confirmed she was microcephalic, causing concern the baby would have “tremendous neurological problems,” according to Dr. Abdulla Al-Khan, director of maternal and fetal medicine at Hackensack. The baby also presented with calcification and dilated ventricles in the brain, according to Dr. Al-Khan.
“The mother is stable, obviously sad, which is the normal emotional reaction given the situation,” he told CNN.
This is only the second baby to have been born in the United States with birth defects characteristic of the Zika virus. The first was born in Hawaii in January to a mother who likely became infected while living in Brazil.
At this point in time, approximately 280 pregnant women infected with Zika are being followed as part of a registry created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This number is triple what was previously reported, due to more comprehensive methods for counting cases after reports of mothers with no symptoms still giving birth to babies with microcephaly were published recently.
Where the Virus Comes From
Most cases of Zika virus have been contracted in Latin America, and most cases of microcephaly reported have come from that region as well. Brazil, in particular, is a hotspot with an estimated 5,000 cases and growing. U.N. health officials have recommended women pregnant or planning to become pregnant should refrain for at least eight weeks after they or their partner live in or have visited areas where Zika virus has high transmission rates. As of yet, no cases of Zika-induced microcephaly have been contracted in the United States, but U.S. health officials caution they expect to see a rise in Gulf Coast states like Florida, Louisiana, and Texas as mosquito season rolls in.
Mosquito bites are still the most prevalent vector of transmission, but the World Health Organization found that sexual transmission occurs more often than previously thought. If the male partner had symptoms of Zika, they recommend couples wait at least six months before attempting to conceive.
As concerns over Zika virus rise, officials at the local, state, and federal level are developing a three prong offensive to combat the spread of the virus via mosquito. This includes implementing more and improved mosquito control, increasing testing capabilities, and educating the public on protecting themselves from mosquitoes.
Women of childbearing age can decrease their risk by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, utilizing mosquito repellent when outdoors, and remaining inside as much as possible, the CDC advised.
President Obama has appealed to Congress to afford $1.9 billion in federal funding to combat the spread of Zika, but efforts to get a spending package passed have so far failed as lawmakers have yet to come to an agreement.
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