A woman takes a photo of the larvae of Aedes aegypti mosquito, vector of the Zika virus, in Cali, Colombia, February 17, 2016. ©AFP
Some 72,000 people, including about 13,000 pregnant women, have been infected with the Zika virus in Colombia since October 2015, health officials say.
Colombia’s National Health Institute (INS) reported on Saturday that in addition to the cases of Zika infection, four cases of microcephaly, an irreversible condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and damaged brains, have been identified in the South American country, adding that another 22 cases of potential microcephaly are under investigation.
Earlier this month, US health officials confirmed, after long debates and months of uncertainty, that Zika causes microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.
A total of 3,292 Zika cases have been confirmed by Colombian laboratories and 68,660 suspected cases have been noted by health officials since the beginning of the epidemic in October 2015.
The Colombian government had initially estimated the number of Zika cases could triple through the end of June, but the INS said the epidemic was “dropping precipitously” for the time.
View of a poster of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, vector of the Zika virus, on the door of seven-month-pregnant Maribel Gomez’ house in Cali, Colombia, February 17, 2016 ©AFP
Colombia has reported the second largest number of Zika infections in South America next only to Brazil, which has registered over 1.5 million cases so far after the epidemic was first detected in 2015.
Some 130 countries are home to the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the Zika virus. Recent studies have indicated that Zika can also be transmitted sexually between human carriers.
There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for the virus.
At least a dozen laboratories across the world are working on a vaccine, but bringing it to market could take years, the World Health Organization says.