— -- Four more infants have been reported to have birth defects related to the Zika virus in New York City, the city's health department announced today.
The city saw its first infant case in July, when a child was born with Zika-related microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head or brain, often leading to significant developmental problems.
In the four most recent cases, the infants were reported to have "congenital Zika virus syndrome," which encompasses variety of issues — including microcephaly, brain and eye abnormalities, shortened or hardened muscles and tendons and neurologic impairment — according to the health department.
Eight other New York City infants tested positive for the virus but have shown no symptoms of related impairment or birth defects, department officials said, adding that all children in the city born to women infected by Zika will be monitored for symptoms for at least a year.
More than 200 infants have been born to women with a Zika virus infection in New York City, according to the health department.
"Today's news is a reminder that Zika continues to be a threat to pregnant women and their babies," New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement today.
"As we enter the holiday season, we urge all pregnant women in New York City, those who might become pregnant and their male sexual partners not to visit places where there is active Zika virus transmission," she added. "We are closely following all babies born to mothers who test positive for Zika infection and will connect parents to available services to improve their child's quality of life."
According to the health department, as of Dec. 2, at least 8,000 people in New York City have been tested for the Zika virus, with 962 people testing positive — 325 of them pregnant women. All the Zika infections reported in the city were acquired while traveling to areas where the virus was more prevalent, except for six cases that were due to sexual contact, the agency said.
Zika infection in adults often has mild symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 1 in 5 people infected with the virus shows symptoms. Severe complications from Zika that require hospitalization are rare, and most people are over the worst of the symptoms after a week, according to the CDC.