More than 2,100 pregnant Colombian women infected with Zika virus

More than 2,100 pregnant Colombian women infected with Zika virus

More than 2,100 pregnant Colombian women are infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the country’s national health institute said on Saturday (January 30), as the disease continues its spread across the Americas.

The virus has been linked to the devastating birth defect, microcephaly, which prevents the fetal brain from developing properly. There is no vaccine or treatment.

There are 20,297 confirmed cases of the disease in Colombia, the national health institute said in an epidemiology bulletin. Among them are 2,116 pregnant women.

“We’ve have reports of 2,116 pregnant women of which 176 have already been confirmed by laboratory tests. That means the figures are going up,” the national health institute’s deputy director of transmissible diseases, Diego Alejandro Garcia, said on Colombia’s RCN network.

Earlier figures from the health ministry showed 560 pregnant women had the disease, out of more than 13,500 infections.

There are so far no reported cases of microcephaly or deaths from the virus in Colombia.

“Until now we have not had reports of babies being born with microcephaly. However, we continue to step-up surveillance efforts and strengthen clinical attention,” Garcia added.

The institute said 37.2 percent of pregnant women with Zika live in Norte de Santander province, along the eastern border with Venezuela.

Zika cases have been confirmed in 23 countries and territories in the Americas and scientists are racing to develop a vaccine for the virus.

Nearly half of Colombia’s Zika cases have been reported in the country’s Caribbean region, the bulletin said. More than 60 percent of those infected are women.

The government has urged women to delay pregnancy for six to eight months to avoid potential infection. Officials expect up to 700,000 cases.

Brazil is the country hit hardest by the disease. It has reported around 3,700 cases of microcephaly strongly suspected to be related to Zika.

The World Health Organization has said as many as 4 million people in the Americas may become infected.

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