Yessica Flores believes in miracles.
She may need miracles to avert any damage to the daughter she is carrying, as Flores is six months pregnant and infected with the Zika virus. The virus can cause a baby to be born with a smaller-than-usual head, resulting in severe brain defects.
"If you have faith, everything turns out well," Flores said during a press conference Monday at Jackson Memorial Hospital. "This is a difficult process … I've never thought of having an abortion. I know we will go forward and that Daniela will be born healthy."
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Doctors at UHealth- University of Miami Health System at Jackson Memorial Hospital confirmed that as of Monday, Flores’ baby appears to be developing well.
"The images of the ultrasound are coming out normal," said Dr. Ivan Gonzalez, who co-directs UM’s Zika Response Team with Dr. Christine Curry, an ob-gyn who is UM’s lead expert on Zika. “We're expecting that when the baby is born the results should be negative [for Zika]. The head is growing normally, which is a sign that the baby is not affected by the virus."
Doctors don’t know how or where Flores, 38, contracted the virus.
As of Monday, the Florida Department of Health reported seven new travel-related Zika cases in the state — three in Miami-Dade, two in Broward and two involving pregnant women, bringing the statewide total of infected people to 1,058. Of those, 113 pregnant women have tested positive for Zika statewide, the health department said Monday.
In June, Flores learned she was seven weeks pregnant. At the time, a trip to her native Honduras to see her family had already been planned. Following her doctor’s advice, she stayed indoors and avoided mosquitoes while staying in the Central American nation, which has reported locally transmitted cases of Zika.
At the same time, Flores worked in the cafeteria at Eneida Hartner Elementary, located in the heart of Wynwood. In early August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that Wynwood was the first neighborhood in the United States where Zika was being transmitted via local mosquitoes and warned pregnant women not to travel there.
The CDC has since lifted the travel advisory to Wynwood but it has cautioned pregnant women to consider postponing any non-essential travel to Miami-Dade County, and as of last week, urged all pregnant women to get tested if they have visited any part of the county since Aug. 1.
Given her trip to Honduras and her work history in Wynwood, doctors advised Flores to be tested for Zika. By mid-September, the test confirmed she had been infected with the Zika virus.
Her husband, Selvin Yac, was tested but his results came back negative. Zika can be transmitted sexually, according to the CDC.
Flores, a devout Christian, emphasized her belief that “a miracle will occur” so she can deliver a healthy baby. She says her older daughter recently survived another illness, which she said only reinforced her faith.
Almost two years ago, Andrea, Flores’ older daughter who recently celebrated her 14th birthday, suffered a series of convulsions caused by trichinosis, a serious infection caused by eating meat infected with a parasitic worm.
In August, doctors declared that Andrea was cleared of the condition and was in good health.
"Happily she [Andrea] is already healthy, just as Daniela will be," said Flores.
Even so, doctors at UM/Jackson are taking a precautionary approach and will continue to monitor the fetal development of Daniela until she is born. After the baby is born, doctors will conduct regular brain, hearing and sight tests until she’s at least 3 years old.
And, the doctors advised, all people should take Zika seriously, not just pregnant women. Mosquitos carrying the Zika virus can breed in standing water, even a bottlecap full of water.
"Men and children need to protect themselves so that they won't spread Zika," Gonzalez said. "The measures to take can be as simple as not allowing water to collect itself or stay stagnant in one area and protecting yourself by wearing mosquito repellent."