- Associated Press - Friday, July 22, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - The city has confirmed its first case of a baby born with a Zika virus-related case of microcephaly, a potentially serious birth defect in which a baby’s skull is much smaller than expected, the Department of Health said Friday.

The infant was born this month to a mother who was infected elsewhere, while in an area where the disease is actively spreading, health officials said as they added to its growing toll in the United States.

While the infection’s spread is centered in South and Central America and the Caribbean, 12 children have been born with Zika-related birth defects nationwide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . More than 1,400 cases have been reported nationwide, including 400 in pregnant women.

Health officials in New York, the nation’s biggest city, “really viewed it as simply a matter of time” until a baby would be born with Zika-related microcephaly, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said.

“But I think having a baby born in our city, who has been diagnosed with this condition, should make real for all of us the fact that this is not a theoretical risk,” she said. “It is a risk that affects us right here.”

Bassett said the case was confirmed Thursday. She wouldn’t release any details about the woman, the baby or their care, saying the city wanted to protect their privacy.

The Zika virus causes only a mild illness, at worst, in most people. But infection during pregnancy sometimes leads to severe brain-related birth defects. Babies with microcephaly sometimes have developmental, intellectual or other problems.

Zika is usually spread by mosquitoes, but there are at least 15 U.S. cases in which someone got it through sex. No cases have been confirmed as stemming from mosquito bites inside the continental United States.

The city health department on Wednesday urged women who are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant to delay travel to areas affected by the virus.

City health care providers have tested 2,000 pregnant women who have traveled to Zika-affected areas, and 41 of them have been confirmed to have the virus, health officials say.

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Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

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