Wed | Aug 23, 2017

El Salvador urges against pregnancies until 2018 as Zika virus spreads

Published:Friday | January 22, 2016 | 1:15 PM

El Salvador today urged women in the country to avoid getting pregnant until 2018 to prevent their children developing birth defects from the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Although research is still underway, significant evidence in Brazil shows a link between Zika infections and rising cases of microcephaly, a brain defect in which infants are born with smaller-than-normal heads.

El Salvador's Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza says the government decided to make the announcement because more than 5,000 cases of the Zika virus had been detected in his country.

Official figures show that 96 pregnant women are suspected of having contracted the virus, but so far none have had babies born with microcephaly.

In Colombia, which has the second-highest Zika infection rate after Brazil, the government is also advising women to delay becoming pregnant, but only for six to eight months.

Jamaica has also told its women to avoid becoming pregnant for the next six to 12 months.

There is no cure for ZIKV.

Meanwhile, US health authorities have expanded a travel warning for pregnant women to avoid 22 places in Latin America and the Caribbean due to the Zika virus.

Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde and Samoa are now included in the level two travel alert.