Oahu baby with birth defect was infected with Zika virus

The Hawaii State Department of Health has received laboratory confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a past Zika virus infection in a baby recently born with microcephaly in a hospital on Oahu.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “microcephaly is a medical condition in which the circumference of the head is smaller than normal because the brain has not developed properly or has stopped growing.”

Officials say the mother likely had Zika infection when she was residing in Brazil in May 2015 and her newborn acquired the infection in the womb.

Neither the baby nor the mother are infectious, and there was never a risk of transmission in Hawaii, officials said.

The news was released hours after the CDC issued a travel alert, saying pregnant women or women who are trying to get pregnant should consider delaying trips to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

“We are saddened by the events that have affected this mother and her newborn,” said DOH State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “This case further emphasizes the importance of the CDC travel recommendations released today. 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 by reducing mosquito breeding areas, avoiding places with mosquitos, and applying repellant as needed.”

To date, there have been no cases of Zika virus acquired in Hawaii.

Since 2014, the department has identified six persons in the state who acquired their infection in another country. Physicians are required to report all suspected cases of Zika virus and more than 75 other reportable diseases in the state. Physician reporting is crucial to conducting an effective disease surveillance program in Hawaii.

“In this situation, an astute Hawaii physician recognized the possible role of Zika virus infection, immediately notified the Department of Health, and worked with us to confirm the suspected diagnosis,” said Park. “We rely on our exceptional medical community to be our eyes and ears in the field to control and prevent the spread of illness in Hawaii.”

The department sent a Medical Advisory to physicians statewide Friday as a reminder that while Zika virus is not endemic in the U.S., it can be acquired in a number of countries and travel history should always be considered.

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika.

Click here for more information on Zika virus.

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