Latin America & Caribbean

Zika: Colombia cases in pregnant women double in a week

A pregnant Colombian woman, infected with the Zika virus, sits in a clinic Image copyright AFP
Image caption Over 20,000 people have been infected with Zika in Colombia, according to health officials

The number of pregnant women in Colombia infected with the Zika virus has doubled in a week, officials said.

Almost 2,000 pregnant women now have the virus, Colombia's National Health Institute said, out of the more than 20,000 people infected across Colombia.

The mosquito-borne virus has been linked to babies being born with abnormally small brains.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned Zika is "spreading explosively", predicting up to 4m cases this year.

Colombia says it expects the overall number of people to be infected to rise to more than 500,000 by the end of 2016.

On Monday, the WHO meets to decide whether Zika should be treated as a global emergency.

Brazil has been worst affected by the outbreak, followed by Colombia, but more than 20 other countries have seen cases.

Jamaica and Peru reported their first confirmed cases over the weekend, with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala urging calm and stressing that the patient contracted the disease outside of the country.

More on the Zika virus:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Zika virus has been linked to infant microcephaly, which can hamper brain development

Zika: What you need to know

Mothers' fears amid outbreak

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Zika symptoms are mild, causing a low fever, joint pain, headaches, a rash and conjunctivitis.

But concern surrounds a surge in babies born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, from mothers infected with Zika. A link has not been confirmed.

Colombia has also said it has seen an increase in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder that can cause temporary paralysis, that has also been linked to Zika.

The outbreak has sparked health warnings and eradication campaigns, with Brazil deploying troops and Colombia launching a mass fumigation campaign to fight mosquitoes.

Colombia and other Latin American countries have advised women to delay getting pregnant for the moment.

What is the Zika virus:

  • Spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries dengue fever and yellow fever
  • First discovered in Africa in the 1940s but is now spreading in Latin America
  • Scientists say there is growing evidence of a link to microcephaly, that leads to babies being born with small heads
  • Can lead to fever and a rash but most people show no symptoms, and there is no known cure
  • Only way to fight Zika is to clear stagnant water where mosquitoes breed, and protect against mosquito bites