By Colleen Jenkins
(Reuters) – A Haitian woman in Florida has delivered the first baby in the state born with the birth defect microcephaly caused by the Zika virus, Florida’s health department said on Tuesday.
The mother contracted the mosquito-borne virus in her home country and traveled to Florida to give birth, state officials said in statements.
If confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the child will be the fifth in the United States to be born with a birth defect linked with travel to a country in which Zika is circulating.
Another four pregnant women lost their babies as a result of travel-related Zika infections, according to the latest CDC report as of June 16. So far, there have not been any cases of Zika in the United States arising from local mosquito transmission.
The CDC’s U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry does not specify the states where those cases occurred. Cases of babies with microcephaly previously were reported in Hawaii and New Jersey.
U.S. health officials have concluded that Zika infections in pregnant women can cause microcephaly, a birth defect marked by unusually small head size and potentially severe developmental problems.
The U.S. cases so far involve women who contracted the virus outside the United States in areas with active Zika outbreaks, or were infected through unprotected sex with an infected partner.
Health experts expect local transmission to occur in the United States as mosquito season gets underway, particularly in states such as Florida and Texas.
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an executive order last week that allocated about $26 million for Zika preparation and response in the state. But in Washington on Tuesday, funding to battle the virus failed to advance in the U.S. Senate.
The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last fall in Brazil, which has now confirmed more than 1,400 cases of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.
The World Health Organization has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika also can cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Bernard Orr)