El Salvador is urging women to avoid getting pregnant until 2018 in order to avoid birth defects that stem from the Zika virus.
According to an announcement from health officials, over 5,000 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been detected in El Salvador.
“We’d like to suggest to all the women of fertile age that they take steps to plan their pregnancies, and avoid getting pregnant between this year and next,” El Salvador’s Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza said in a statement, according to New York Daily News.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also urged pregnant women to consider avoiding trips to El Salvador and other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in which the virus-carrying Aedes mosquitoes live.
According to the World Health Organization, at least 20 countries and territories have had reported cases of the virus, including Puerto Rico, Panama, Barbados, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Guadeloupe, reported The Washington Post.
The Zika virus has been documented as far back as the 1940s, though it only became a serious threat in Latin America in recent months, according to The Washington Post.
Brazil has been the country hit hardest by the outbreak, with over a million cases.
Nearly 4,000 cases have been reported in which the Zika virus has caused defects in newborn babies, prompting countries, including Jamaica, Colombia, and Honduras, to urge women to avoid getting pregnant. El Salvador’s stance became the most extreme thus far when officials asked women to avoid pregnancy until 2018.