Baby Born at HackensackUMC with Zika Related Birth Defect

By Brenda Flanagan

“The difficulty is dealing with the emotional aspect of what the mother is going through,” said Dr. Abdullah Al-Khan, section chief of maternal fetal medicine and surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Doctors at Hackensack University Medical Center say the mom, a woman from Honduras, deliberately traveled here to have her baby girl — a child she suspected was affected by the Zika virus. The premature baby was born via C-section with Zika-related microcephaly — her head and brain only partially developed. She also suffers from eye and internal problems.

“We need to more thoroughly evaluate the baby’s neurologic system and eye findings and other key functions,” said Dr. Julia Piwoz, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at HackensackUMC.

Doctors say the infant’s currently being fed by IV lines while they evaluate her condition. She’s the first baby born with Zika-related complications in the northeast U.S.

“Neither the mother nor the baby acquired this infection in the U.S. and I’d like to also emphasize that neither the mother nor the baby poses an infectious risk to others,” Piwoz said.

Doctors explained the 31-year-old unidentified woman caught Zika — transmitted by infected mosquitoes — while in Honduras and that the CDC had confirmed her condition with blood tests.

“The patient opted to come to the U.S. for better care for her and her unborn fetus and she has family members in the U.S. She is trying her best to cope with this, emotionally,” Al-Khan said.

“I wasn’t surprised. I thought it was only a matter of time,” said Dr. Peter Wenger, Pediatric Immunology and Infectious Disease at the Children’s Hospital at St. Peter’s University Hospital.

Medical experts say more Zika-related births are likely to occur here.

“There’s a large population in this area that comes from — foreign-born — that are living in the U.S. who come from areas where there’s now an epidemic of Zika,” Wenger said.

Doctors note the virus can be sexually-transmitted by Zika-infected men to women, but there have been no local, mosquito-transmitted cases reported in New Jersey.

“Even patients in New Jersey are constantly coming to us, ‘Doctor, I’m pregnant. Am I going to get a Zika infection?’ And the answer is, most likely not. Because we don’t have a lot of cases within the U.S.,” said Al-Khan.

New Jersey’s logged 18 cases of travel-related Zika. State health officials urge women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant to avoid traveling to Zika-affected countries. The baby is expected to be at the hospital for at least a week.