A woman in New Jersey became the first mother with Zika to give birth on the U.S. mainland, doctors announced on Wednesday. Her child, a girl, suffered severe birth defects as a result of the virus including microcephaly, intestinal issues, and “structural abnormalities of the eye.” Now, more details are emerging about the case and condition of the woman, and hospital officials have released a photo of the newborn.
The woman, 31, contracted the disease said she developed a rash in Honduras, her native country, in December. “I told my gynecologist that I had an allergic episode,” she reportedly said while in the hospital, before giving birth. “He said, ‘Don’t worry, everything will be fine.'” An ultrasound reportedly showed no sounds of abnormalities, but her grandmother, a microbiologist, sent a blood sample to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC informed her that she had contracted Zika, and the woman left for the United States to seek better care. “She’s hanging in there,” said one of her doctors, Abdulla Al-Khan. “But, of course, what human being isn’t going to be devastated by this news?”
Meanwhile, new concerns emerged on Friday about how the Zika virus is transmitted. In a letter to The New England Journal of Medicine, scientists described cases where Zika may have been transmitted by oral sex — or even, possibly, just by kissing. Zika has been reported in 10 countries where no mosquitos carry the virus, and scientists now believe that sexual transmission may be an important driver in the disease’s spread. In France, a man transmitted Zika to a woman with whom he practiced safe vaginal sex, but engaged in oral sex with ejaculation. The man was found to have high levels of the virus in his semen and urine, despite having none in his blood or saliva.
Dr. John T. Books, an epidemiologist for the CDC, said he was “not particularly” surprised that transmission by oral sex was possible, but said that transmission through kissing is not likely to be a risk. Otherwise, he said, “Every mom who kissed her baby would pass it on.”