Over 3,100 pregnant Colombian women, and 25,645 Colombians total, are infected with the Zika virus, President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Saturday. Pregnant women infected with Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, appear more likely to give birth to children with microcephaly, a birth defect marked by abnormally small head size, although researchers have as yet been unable to definitively prove a link between the two diseases. There have been no recorded cases of Zika-linked microcephaly in Colombia thus far, Santos said, and the government is reevaluating previous estimates that they could experience up to 500 cases of Zika-linked microcephaly in the country. The government projects the country will experience 600,000 cases of Zika, along with up to 1,000 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder potentially linked to Zika that weakens the muscles and causes paralysis.
The government will be working across the country to fight mosquitoes by fumigating and helping families rid their homes of stagnant water, Santos says. The government will also allow pregnant women with Zika to access much-restricted abortion services. Many Colombian women struggle to find abortion providers even when they meet legal requirements, and illegal abortions are rampant. The country’s first abortion due to Zika infection was reported on Friday.
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