Hawaiian Infant Born with Zika Virus-Related Birth Defect, CDC Issues Travel Advisory

January 18, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick

Suspicions surrounding the connection between the Zika virus and microcephaly, the condition where infants are born with smaller-than-normal brain sizes, have come to a head as the mosquito-borne illness hits another state.

Suspicions surrounding the connection between the Zika virus and microcephaly, the condition in which infants are born with smaller-than-normal brain sizes, have come to a head as the mosquito-borne illness hits another state.

US concerns about Zika began in May 2015 with an outbreak reported in Brazil. The Zika virus typically causes mild symptoms, such as fever, rash, joint pain, and headache, for up to a week; however, serious cases can have much different outcomes. There have been 3,500 cases of microcephaly reported in Brazil where health authorities believe Zika infection is to blame.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the virus made its way to US territory on New Year’s Eve when it was identified in the US territory of Puerto Rico — but it didn’t stop there.

The next US case of the Zika virus (which is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito) was investigated and the virus' genome was sequenced.. The most recent Zika diagnosis was confirmed in a newborn with microcephaly in Hawaii. Officials from the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) hypothesize that the mother became infected in May 2015 when she was residing in Brazil.

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“We are saddened by the events that have affected this mother and her newborn,” Sarah Park, MD, FAAP, DOH state epidemiologist in Hawaii, said in a news release. The baby likely acquired the virus in the womb and was born with microcephaly as a result. A physician had recognized the signs of the Zika virus in the patient and notified the DOH. Officials said that highlightsthe importance of health care providers knowing the symptoms and treatment protocols.

In both of these US cases, the patients got Zika from foreign countries and not within their own state. Although the virus is transmitted to people from mosquitos, there is a possibility that it can be spread through blood or sexual contact.

“Mosquitos can carry serious diseases, as we know too well with our current dengue outbreak and it is imperative that we all Fight the Bite [an initiative in Hawaii to combat dengue fever] by reducing mosquito breeding areas, avoiding places with mosquitos, and applying repellant as needed,” Park continued.

The CDC released a health advisory for all travelers looking to visit one of the 14 areas with confirmed Zika cases. It’s strongly advised that pregnant women consider postponing their travels until more is known about the risks.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the Zika virus. Physicians can review clinical evaluation practices on the CDC website and should report suspected cases to the proper health department.

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