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First Baby Born with Brain Damage from Zika Virus in U.S. Confirmed

The Short of It

U.S. officials have confirmed a baby born with brain damage in Oahu, Hawaii, was infected with the Zika virus. This marks the first case in the United States of an infant who contracted the mosquito borne illness in the womb.

The Lowdown

The infected baby's mom most likely contracted the virus while living in Brazil in 2015. That country has seen an alarming rise in Zika cases since last year. More than 3,500 infected babies have been born with brain damage and small heads, a condition known as microcephaly, which can hamper the full development of the brain. As a result, one Brazilian official even went so far as to advise that women postpone having children at this time.

The virus is fairly harmless to most people, causing mild rashes and fever. But pregnant women who are bitten by an infected mosquito, especially during their first trimester, can transmit Zika to their fetuses, who in turn develop birth defects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory late last week, specifically warning pregnant women of the danger of traveling to countries and territories where the virus is circulating: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.

American health officials want people to know that this newest development doesn't mean the infection has spread to the U.S.

"There's no indication at this point that there's any Zika virus circulating in Hawaii," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told Reuters. "But I think it's important for us to understand that there are going to be imported cases of Zika to the United States, and we won't be surprised if we start to see some local transmission of the virus."

The Upshot

That this virus may start spreading in the U.S. is, of course, very scary for women who are either trying to get pregnant or are currently pregnant. It seems it's only a matter of time before this is an issue here; and at this time, there is no vaccine.

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