A baby girl has died in Harris County from complications related to the Zika virus, local public health officials said Tuesday.
The death is the first known fatality in Texas linked to the virus, which can cause birth defects when contracted by pregnant mothers. It is the second Zika-related death in the continental United States after an elderly man in Utah died in June.
Zika virus is not considered fatal in most adults. But researchers have linked the Zika virus in pregnant women to microcephaly, a condition causing babies to be born with abnormally small brains and skulls, and a small proportion of Zika infections may also trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome, an illness that targets the nervous system, scientists say.
Officials from Harris County, which includes Houston, said the baby’s mother had traveled during her pregnancy to Latin America, where authorities suspect she contracted the mosquito-borne virus. The infant was born with birth defects, including microcephaly, officials said.
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“The saddest outcome of Zika’s health effects often impact the most vulnerable,” said Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health, in a statement. “We are devastated to report our first case of Zika-associated death and our hearts go out to the family.”
There have been 99 reported cases of the Zika virus in Texas, all of which were contracted related to travel, according to state public health officials. That count includes three pregnant women, one infant infected before birth and one person who had sexual contact with a traveler.
State officials say there have been no confirmed cases of mosquito-to-human transmission of the virus in Texas. The continental U.S. experienced its first such local transmission last month in South Florida.
Is Texas ready for Zika? Read more about the virus:
- Texas officials announced earlier this month they would allow Medicaid to pay for mosquito repellent for women, in the hopes of preventing the disease.
- Has Texas' fight with Planned Parenthood crippled the state's ability to fight Zika?
- The uncertainty over where and when Zika might spread has left Texas women and doctors with questions about how best to prepare for an outbreak.