A researcher holds a container with female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo's University, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. The Aedes aegypti is a vector for transmitting the Zika virus. The Brazilian government announced it will direct funds to a biomedical research center to help develop a vaccine against the Zika virus linked to brain damage in babies.Andre Penner / AP, file
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Florida officials reported the state’s first case of a Zika-linked birth defect in a baby born to a woman infected in Haiti.
The newborn has microcephaly, the most notorious defect caused by Zika, the Florida Department of Health said. Microcephaly is a smaller-than-normal head caused when the brain doesn’t develop properly. There’s no cure for it.
“The mother, a citizen of Haiti, came to Florida to deliver her baby,” the health department said in a statement.
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“The department is working with the family to connect the child to services through our Early Steps program.”
Zika has been spreading across Latin America and the Caribbean for months, leaving a swath of affected babies in its wake.
The virus is mostly harmless to adults, causing a bad rash and aching muscles in most people who notice symptoms. But it can be devastating to developing babies if a woman is infected during pregnancy.
The virus is carried by mosquitoes and spread sexually. Health officials do not expect an epidemic in the U.S. but predict outbreaks as people return from heavily-affected areas and get bitten by local mosquitoes.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is studying 265 women infected with Zika during pregnancy in the U.S. — all of them travel-related so far. Another 216 are affected in territories such as Puerto Rico, where there are local epidemics of Zika.
So far, the CDC has reported four babies born with Zika-related birth defects and another four pregnancies lost to miscarriage or aborted because of birth defects.
Maggie Fox is a senior writer for NBC News and TODAY, covering health policy, science, medical treatments and disease.