Mom of NJ Baby Born with Zika-Related Microcephaly Speaks Out: My Doctor Said, 'Don't Worry, Everything Will Be Fine'
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The young Honduran woman delivered the first tri-state area baby born with defects linked to the Zika virus on Tuesday is speaking out.
The 31-year-old mother gave birth via C-section to her baby girl at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. She was diagnosed with the virus in Honduras, and traveled to the Garden State – where she has family – for treatment.
Hackensack Medical officials reported to ABC 6 in Philadelphia that the baby has intestinal and visual problems, and has been diagnosed with microcephaly, a condition in which the child is born with a partially developed brain and head.
In an interview to Fox News Latino from her hospital bed, the woman – whose name is being withheld – said she worried about her pregnancy when being diagnosed. Her initial symptoms, however, were underestimated by doctors in her homeland.
The woman’s fever and rash first appeared in December – though she told her Central American gynecologist she thought she was having an allergic episode. “I said I had had a little fever,” she said, in Spanish. “but it was very brief, only for about an hour.”
When she didn’t exhibit other symptoms commonly associated with the virus, like pain or redness in her eyes, she was assured her baby wasn’t at risk.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry, everything will be fine. I don’t think you will be affected.’ Then I had an ultrasound, and everything looked fine,” she explains.
While the normal ultrasound happened early in the mother’s pregnancy, surgeon Dr. Abdulla Al-Khan confirmed to the AP that another ultrasound last week showed birth defects, including microcephaly.
Al-Khan, who is also the hospital’s chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive science, said the prognosis for babies born with microcephaly is “generally very poor.”
“It was very sad for us to see a baby born with such a condition,” he added. “What human being isn’t going to be devastated by this news?”
“It’s a reality we’re living,” the mother, who suspects she contracted the virus through a mosquito. “Sometimes we can underestimate things, but when it’s your turn to be in that situation, that’s the hard part.”
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In April, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the link between Zika and microcephaly, saying “There is no longer any doubt that Zika causes microcephaly.”
“Never before in history has there been a situation where a bite from a mosquito can result in a devastating malformation,” Frieden continued.
While this woman is the first to give birth to a baby with Zika-related issues in the tri-state area, her child is is not the first child in the U.S. born with defects linked to the rampant virus. According to CBS, a U.S. woman who contracted the virus overseas gave birth in February to a child who suffered microcephaly.
In early May, PEOPLE reported that a pregnant 17-year-old in Danbury, Connecticut, tested positive for Zika but refused to terminate her pregnancy.
“I’m not happy that my baby is going to be born with Zika, but God has given me a miracle,” Sara Mujica told PEOPLE. “Doctors said that I would never get pregnant so this is a big miracle for me.”
Zika causes brief flu-like illness in most people. The first death from a reaction to the Zika virus infection – a Puerto Rican man in his 70s – was reported in April.
There are currently no vaccines or treatments for Zika. Scientists are working on developing both.