Despite arriving on the viral diseases scene just recently, the Zika virus has already made a large impact. The first cases in the Americas were reported in Brazil last spring, where the virus was linked to birth defects that affected brain development. The most commonly cited birth defect was microcephaly, which results in an abnormally small brain. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here in the U.S. have advised that pregnant women should not travel to the 14 countries affected by the virus.
Now, the government of El Salvador (one of the affected countries) is going one step further and advising women of childbearing age to refrain from getting pregnant until 2018. The announcement came after 5K+ cases of the virus were detected in women in 2015 and early this year. Of this number, it’s suspected that 96 women had contracted the virus, but so far, none have resulted in microcephaly. I couldn’t find information on how high-risk El Salvador is for the Zika virus, but this measure would lead me to believe that it looks pretty dire.
The government of Colombia has released a similar warning, but is advising women to wait six to eight months. Colombia has the second-highest rate of Zika infections after Brazil.
In terms of each country’s birth rates (counted as births per 1K people), El Salvador has 16.79. It just edges past Colombia with a birth rate of 16.73. By contrast, Brazil has a birth rate of 14.72. It’ll be interesting to see how El Salvador and Colombia’s birth rates are affected this year by their respective government’s measures.
The Zika virus is transmitted via mosquito, and is characterized by joint pain, fever, rash and red eyes.