At least 32 Big Apple babies were born with Zika-like birth defects or tested positive for the virus, the city revealed Thursday — a dramatic increase from just six months ago.
In December 2016, officials reported that only five babies had been born in New York with the brain developmental symptoms caused by the infection, while eight others had tested positive for the virus.
Of the 32 babies now affected, 16 have defects, the health officials said.
“For pregnant women and their babies the threat is real and the threat is lifelong. Babies exposed to Zika while their mother is pregnant can be born with severe neurological deficits that will affect them their entire life — or worse can actually cause a baby’s death,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, at a press conference Thursday.
The virus can cause babies to be born with smaller heads and less developed brains — a condition known as microcephaly — as well as joint, muscle, and eye problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The sharp increase in cases is in part because some babies with microcephaly didn’t test positive for Zika at birth, but doctors were able to piece together a diagnosis from their symptoms and mom’s travel history, according to Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.
“Some of these babies got infected too early in their mother’s pregnancy to test positive at birth,” she said.
In all, 1,067 New Yorkers have tested positive for Zika since the virus was identified — including 402 pregnant women, health officials said.
In December 2016, the city had identified 962 people with the virus, including 325 pregnant women.
All of the local cases so far are travel related and there is no known local transmission of the virus — although 11 people got the illness after sleeping with someone who had traveled.
Only one of those cases involved a woman transmitting Zika to a man — the only known case in the world, officials said.
The city is encouraging jetsetters who head off to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America or South America for the summer — or hook up with someone who has — to use condoms. And if you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, just stay away all together, officials said.
“We urge women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, along with their sexual partners, to avoid traveling to these areas,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.
Men who have Zika-like symptoms — rash, redeye, a fever — should use a rubber for six months after travelling, Bassett added.
The virus is mainly spread by mosquitoes, but no New York bugs have tested positive, officials said.
Credit: NY Post