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Doctor: Mom With Zika 'Hanging In There' After Baby Born In NJ With Birth Defect

HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A New Jersey doctor said a Honduran woman with Zika is "hanging in there" after giving birth to a baby girl with birth defects that appear to be caused by the mosquito-borne virus.

The woman delivered the baby through a cesarean section at 35 weeks Tuesday at Hackensack University Medical Center, said Dr. Abdulla Al-Kahn, the hospital's director of maternal-fetal medicine and surgery.

Zika Baby Hackensack
(Credit/Hackensack University Medical Center.)

The 31-year-old mother was diagnosed with Zika in her native Honduras after lab results were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation of the virus, said Al-Kahn. She then came to New Jersey, where she has family, to seek further treatment, CBS2's Meg Baker reported.

ZIKA INFORMATION FROM THE CDC: Basics | FAQ | Info For Pregnant Women | Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment | More Info | 10 Facts About The Zika Virus

Al-Kahn said the mother had a normal ultrasound early in her pregnancy, and that another one last week showed birth defects, including microcephaly, in which the baby's head is smaller than expected because the brain hasn't developed properly.

The doctor said the baby looks "completely Zika affected,'' and while further testing is required to confirm the virus, he's "90 to 95 percent'' sure it's Zika.

"It was very sad for us to see a baby born with such a condition,'' he said.

The extent of the damage the baby suffered from Zika is still unclear, WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reported.

"We need to more thoroughly evaluate the baby's neurological system and eye findings and other key functions," said Dr. Julia Piwoz.

But Al-Kahn said the prognosis for babies born with microcephaly, which also can signal underlying brain damage, is "generally very poor.''

Some other patients had no idea that a Zika patient was being treated at the same hospital.

"It would have been nice to know before I came here," patient Alex Boscino told CBS2. "It's a little nerve-wracking, hit close to home."

Doctors are emphasizing that the woman does not pose an infectious risk to others. There is no word yet on how long the mother and child will remain in the U.S.

There have been more than 500 Zika cases in the U.S., all involving people who were infected in outbreak areas in South America, Central America or the Caribbean or people who had sex with infected travelers.

There are now 14 confirmed Zika cases in New Jersey and 127 in New York. All were contracted in other countries.

Scientists in Brazil said they've developed a test that can detect Zika in 20 minutes. Up until now, patients had to wait weeks to get lab results. The test has just gotten approval from Brazil's health surveillance agency to be produced and sold in the country.

Mosquitoes aren't yet spreading Zika in the continental U.S., but experts predict small outbreaks are possible as mosquito season heats up.

Earlier this year, the CDC reported that a baby born in a Hawaii hospital was the first in the United States with microcephaly linked to the Zika virus.

A total of 10 countries so far reported cases of microcephaly linked to Zika, which is spread primarily through mosquito bites and can also be transmitted through sex. With more than 1,400 reported cases, Brazil has the most, by far.

The CDC has joined the World Health Organization in recommending that pregnant women avoid traveling to Zika-affected countries. If pregnant women get infected, there is no known treatment to prevent them from stopping transmission of the virus to their unborn babies.

While Al-Kahn described the New Jersey case as "absolutely devastating,'' he said he hopes it will serve as an "awakening call'' for the country to take strong measures to prevent the disease.

"It's time for us to do something,'' he said.

The case of Zika in the Tri-State area has raised concerns about the virus and whether it might post a risk. CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez addressed some key questions on the health crisis:

Q: How do you contract Zika?

A: The main way to get Zika is being bitten by an infected mosquito, and since those haven't been found yet in the U.S., you'd have to had traveled and been bitten in areas where infected mosquitoes have been found. This included Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. There have also been a few cases of sexually transmitted Zika because the virus stays in semen for weeks after a man has been infected.

Q: Who is at risk for Zika?

A: Anyone can get Zika, but the vast majority of people will only suffer a mild flu-like illness. The real risk is to women who get infected while they're pregnant. Because we don't know exactly how long the virus remains in the body for men or women, the CDC recommends not having unprotected sex or becoming pregnant for two to six months after visiting infected areas, depending on whether there were signs of mosquito bites or Zika illness.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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