More than 3,100 pregnant Colombian women have contracted the Zika virus, President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Feb. 6.
The Zika virus is spread from infected mosquitos and may be linked to the more than 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly in Brazil, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller in size than normal with an underdeveloped brain, Reuters reported.
There are no reported cases of microcephaly in Colombia, Santos said. There is now uncertainty by the Colombian government about a previous projection of up to 500 cases of Zika-linked microcephaly, based on data obtained from other countries battling an outbreak of the disease, he said. There are also concerns that up to 1,000 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder that may cause paralysis, could occur.
A total of 25,645 people are infected with the Zika virus in Colombia, Santos said, of which 3,177 are pregnant women.
"The projection is that we could end up having 600,000 cases," Santos said.
The Colombian government is offering pregnant women access to abortion services, which are normally heavily restricted in the country.
At least one woman in the country has had a Zika-related abortion.
There is no vaccine for the Zika virus, and most of the infected show no symptoms. Those that do, experience symptoms similar to influenza, which last up to a week. Infections resulting in death are uncommon.
On Feb. 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a bulletin stating that sexual transmission of the Zika virus is possible after three cases were reported, two of which were in the United States.
The data suggests that men may transfer the disease to women during sexual intercourse. There have not been any cases of a woman transmitting it to a man. The use of condoms is recommended.