South Florida doctors treat baby girl born with Zika virus

Child's mother contracted virus while traveling to Venezuela

MIAMI – A baby girl who tested positive for the Zika virus is being treated by doctors in South Florida.

The baby's mother contracted the Zika virus while traveling while pregnant off the coast of Venezuela.

The baby has not been diagnosed with microcephaly, but doctors said the child is suffering from other Zika-related side effects.

Photos taken inside the baby girl's eyes at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine help give doctors a clearer vision of how to treat the baby.

"You can see that here we have the changes in pigment. So this is what we think is the Zika infection in this child," pediatric retina specialist Dr. Audina Berrocal said while examining a photo.

The baby's mother, Maria Ramirez Bolivar, contracted the virus at the end of her first trimester, while on a family Christmas vacation on the island of Margarita off the coast of Venezuela. The island is about 290 miles east of Caracas.

"They thought it was the sun," Ramirez Bolivar said in Spanish about the rashes she started getting followed by red eyes and stomach issues. 

She said she felt terrible to hear the news and then her "world collapsed."

Ramirez Bolivar, who is from Venezuela, but now lives in Doral, said she saw three doctors and then waited for the results.

She said the past months have been filled with anxiety, not knowing the fate of her baby, Micaela, who is now nearly two months old.

"This baby luckily has very little changes in the retina," Berrocal said.

But Micaela does have some calcifications in her brain left behind by the virus. 

"It just tells us that there was a bacteria or a virus in the brain and that virus has left us with some calcifications," Berrocal said. "Babies with early intervention and the right support, sometimes they compensate for those changes that we find early."

Berrocal recently spent time in Brazil working with 25 other babies who have severe microcephaly.

The scars in those babies' retinas are larger and closer to the center than Micaela's, evidence of what is likely long-term damage. 

"Finding changes in the eyes indicates that we must have something in the brain of that child," Berrocal said.

Still, Berrocal said Micaela will likely have "almost normal visual development."

Ramirez Bolivar is thankful that her daughter's condition is not worse, and gave her the middle name Milagros (Miracle), because she believes her daughter is a miracle child.

"Don't go to places where there is Zika," Ramirez Bolivar warned other mothers, saying sometimes she hasn't been able to sleep, worrying about her young daughter's future.

Micaela, who was born June 28, is Ramirez Bolivar's fourth child. She also has a 13-year-old daughter and 9-year-old twin boys.

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