New Jersey hospital officials have reported the second case of a baby born with Zika-related microcephaly in the United States. The baby was born Tuesday to a mother visiting from Honduras. "The mother is stable, obviously sad, which is the normal emotional reaction given the situation," said Dr. Abdulla Al-Khan, the director of maternal and fetal medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center. The woman does not wish to be identified.
The 31-year-old woman came to the United States specifically to receive advanced care, fearing that her baby may be affected by Zika after she developed both a fever and a rash — the two main symptoms of a Zika infection in adults. Doctors in Honduras suspected cranial complications. The mother has relatives in the New Jersey area and arrived at Hackensack on Friday, where she was admitted into the hospital's high-risk unit. There, an ultrasound showed "significant microcephaly." On Tuesday, the results came back from the CDC: Zika was the cause.
The baby was delivered by Cesarean section at 36 weeks, but not because of the virus. "There were a few reasons the baby needed to be delivered today, including low amniotic fluid," Dr. Al-Khan told CNN. Dr. Manny Alvarez told USA Today, "The baby apparently had been not developing properly over the last month or so ... My team decided that it was appropriate now to deliver the baby."
The first baby with Zika-related microcephaly in the U.S. was born in Hawaii. In January, the CDC confirmed that Zika was the cause. The mother had traveled to Brazil in May 2015, where she was infected. She then passed it on to the baby in the womb, but was likely never contagious to others in Hawaii, where the virus has yet to reach.
There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Zika. Babies with microcephaly are born with smaller heads and underdeveloped brains. Symptoms range in severity, but often include severe neurological problems. Some 300 pregnant women in the country with the virus are being tracked as a part of a national registry.
According to the CDC, Zika is actively being transmitted across nearly all of Latin America (except for Chile and Uruguay) and into the Caribbean, affecting more than 35 countries in the region. The American territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa have also seen transmission of the virus. The CDC has advised pregnant women, or women who may become pregnant, to postpone traveling to affected areas.
Brazil alone, where the outbreak was first recognized, has seen nearly 5,000 cases of Zika-related microcephaly. About 100 scientists penned an open letter to the World Health Organization asking for the summer Olympic games to be moved from Rio de Janeiro, citing the crisis. The WHO rejected the call, and the International Olympic Committee sees no reason to cancel or postpone the games, or to change the venue.