The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added another eight countries or territories to its travel warning for the Zika virus, recommending pregnant women avoid areas where the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to birth defects, is spreading. Besides Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, the warning has now also been expanded to include Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde and Samoa. The Center also calls on expecting mothers who visited those countries during their pregnancy to be monitored and screened for the virus if they were there when the virus was present.
In El Salvador, the vice minister of health has called on women to not get pregnant until 2018, echoing similar advice issued in Colombia and Jamaica. However, El Salvador is home to one of the world’s most severe abortion bans — restricting all abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformation or when the mother’s life is in danger. Women’s rights groups are now calling for the ban to be lifted, in light of this new health crisis. “I think the Zika situation puts the total abortion ban into the national arena,” said Astrid Valencia of Amnesty International. Meanwhile, British health officials revealed that three U.K. travelers have been infected with the virus, although this should not be cause for panic, as the virus does not spread from person to person.
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