WASHINGTON — A new study suggests that the Zika virus can live and cause damage in newborns for at least two months after birth, raising new concerns among health officials across the globe.
The report, published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, involves a baby boy born in January to a woman in São Paulo, Brazil. Zika is typically transmitted via mosquito bites, but sexual transmission can also occur.
The mother developed symptoms of Zika illness — rash, fever, headache, swollen joints — in week 26 of her pregnancy. The doctors suspect she got the infection through sexual contact with the baby’s father, who had recently traveled to a Zika-endemic region.
Zika is most known for its link to a devastating birth defect called microcephaly, where babies are born with a smaller than normal head and underdeveloped brains. However, the São Paulo baby appeared normal and healthy at birth, with a typical head circumference, according to a team at the University of São Paulo.
In Florida, the state is running at least 10 different investigations into more than 40 cases of Zika virus. The mosquitoes that spread the virus thrive in the warm, humid state most of the year. The appearance of so many cases in such a short period could threaten the state’s tourist industry.
Roche, meanwhile, has received emergency use authorization for its Zika test from the Food and Drug Administration. The product is for use in patients meeting Zika virus clinical criteria or epidemiological criteria as established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, the CDC has awarded nearly $7 million to national public health sponsors to assist various governmental agencies with their Zika responses.
However, the head of the CDC has made his strongest case yet for Congress to include funding that will combat the Zika virus in its stopgap spending bill. “Basically, we’re out of money,” said Dr. Tom Frieden. “Congress needs to do something.”
Frieden delivered his most urgent appeal since February for lawmakers to approve some or all of the Obama administration’s $1.9 billion request. The CDC, which leads the nation’s public health response to Zika, has spent or budgeted almost all of the $222 million it borrowed from across the federal health department.
Zika is currently spreading across several states, including Texas. At presstime, the case was classified as “travel related,” and state health officials were continuing to investigate it.
In Puerto Rico, a public health emergency has been declared by the Health and Human Services department. More than 10,000 residents, including over 1,000 pregnant women, are believed to be infected by the virus. Authorities acknowledge that many people on the island have failed to take proper precautions because they believe the threat has been exaggerated.