NEW YORK CITY — The city has its first reported case of a baby born with Zika-related birth defects in a local hospital, the city's Health Department reported Friday.
Doctors have diagnosed the baby — who tested positive for Zika and whose mother became infected with the virus while traveling in an area with ongoing Zika transmission — with microcephaly, a condition that manifests as abnormally small head size and stunted mental abilities and development.
Both the mother and child are currently in care and under observation by doctors, a Health Department statement said.
“While not surprising, given the travel trends of our global city, this case is a strong reminder of the tragic consequences of the Zika virus," city Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in the statement. “I remind all pregnant women in New York City, and those trying to get pregnant, that they should delay travel to places where there is active Zika transmission. As we see today, the consequences for the child can be devastating.”
Of the 2,000 pregnant women the Health Department has tested for Zika after traveling abroad, 41 were confirmed as having Zika, city officials announced Wednesday.
Officials not only advise pregnant women and those trying to conceive to avoid traveling to places where the virus is prevalent — including the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Guyana and Colombia — but to use protection when having sex with a partner who has traveled to those areas.
During a press conference about Zika Friday afternoon, Bassett noted that New York is an immigrant city and it is hard for many residents to stop visiting countries where they have deep familial and cultural ties.
“It’s not a simple thing to stop doing what you always, do especially when the risk seems theoretical,” Basset said.
But she cautioned, “Now we’ve had a baby born with microcephaly right here...I hope that will make [the risk] real to people.”
At least three New Yorkers have contracted the virus through sex as of July 15, the city said. One was the first documented case of a woman transmitting Zika to a man.
Basset said there have been no cases of transmission by mosquitoes in New York and that she remains "cautiously optimistic" that there will not be any.
The mayor's office has thus far invested $21 million in preparing the city for the Zika virus, some of which funded a new call center for processing Zika testing requests. Last Friday alone, the call center fielded 56 test requests, officials said.
— Additional reporting by William Mathis.