Before travelling to the United States from her native Honduras, a woman who knew she was infected with the Zika virus chose to visit relatives in New Jersey. It was there that the 31-year-old gave birth to a baby girl who presented signs of microcephaly. The baby was born with an unusually small head and thus associated with the mosquito-borne illness that is sweeping Latin America and Africa.
 
The woman reportedly wished to remain anonymous. Her immigration status was not reported by the major media outlets. Pregnant women who come to the United States, even illegally, can rely on good medical care in the U.S. For example, in 2014 alone, Medicaid paid $2.2 billion to reimburse hospitals for unpaid illegal alien deliveries, according to the Daily Caller. Also, even if the mother is in the U.S. illegally, the child would be eligible for food stamps, the Women Infants and Children (WIC) food program, as well as a Section 8 housing allowance by virtue of being born in the United States and thus an American citizen.
 
Zika is associated with microcephaly and diminished intellectual capacity and brain damage.
 
This is the at least the second baby to be born in the United States presenting birth defects associated with the disease. In Hawaii, a baby was born in January to a mother who had recently returned from her residence in Brazil. In Brazil, hundreds of women have born babies marked by Zika microcephaly. In some countries, such as El Salvador, women are being urged to delay pregnancy until the disease can be understood.
 
Dr. Manny Alvarez, who chairs the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center where the baby was born, said that the new mother knew she had the virus, based on blood tests she received before visiting her relatives. The doctor said that physicians at the hospital did not want the baby to be exposed any further to Zika in utero, so they decided to deliver the baby early despite being underweight for its gestational age. The baby, the woman’s second, was delivered by Caesarean section on May 31.
 
A woman in Connecticut who traveled to Central America and became pregnant while she was there has been found to have the virus. Dr. Alvarez said “It tells you that Zika is real. There is still a lot of work to be done insofar as controlling this virus.”
 
There is growing concern about the virus throughout the United States and the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Among athletes, there is concern that they may be infected at the Olympic Games planned for Rio de Janeiro this summer. Recently, Detroit Tigers pitcher Francisco Rodríguez said he contracted Zika while visiting his Venezuelan homeland during the off-season.
 
Rodríguez suffered weeks of severe head and body aches, joint paid, and many other symptoms. He advised athletes to think twice about participating in or observing the Olympic Games in Brazil.
 
There is some evidence that Zika may be transmitted through sexual contact. An American scientist who visited Latin America three years ago is believed to have infected his wife upon his return.
 
Several other athletes and hundreds of medical experts have also warned about the risk of Zika. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in May that approximately 300 pregnant women in the U.S. and its territories have contracted Zika. 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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