The threat of Zika virus surfacing in the United States became even more pronounced when Hawaii health officials confirmed that a baby born in Oahu had a brain infection linked to the virus.
The baby’s mother visited Brazil during her pregnancy; the virus is so widespread in Brazil, with 1.5 million people infected, that doctors have advised women not to get pregnant for the time being. The Hawaii case is being called the first of Zika virus anywhere in the U.S.
The Hawaiian baby was born with microcephaly, a rare condition resulting in an abnormally small head and brain.
The U.S. Department of State has since issued a level 2 warning, advising pregnant women and those considering having a baby to abstain from traveling to several Central American regions including Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador.
This virus, like dengue and malaria, travels through mosquitoes, which means that the probability of the epidemic traveling to the U.S. becomes even more pronounced.
The link between Zika virus and birth defects has remained largely uninvestigated. Researchers believe it is because the virus only materialized in people too young to have babies.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Kevin Lamarque