The government of Colombia has confirmed 3,100 cases of pregnant women with the Zika virus, but no cases of the birth defect microcephaly.
Zika has infected around 25,000 people in the country. President Juan Manuel Santos believes the country will witness “600,000 cases before the epidemic reaches its ceiling.”
Microcephaly occurs if the brain does not form properly in pregnancy or stops growing after birth. Children can suffer from seizures, developmental delays, intellectual disability, and feeding problems.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated the disorder is typically uncommon. Following the outbreak of Zika, however, Brazil has discovered over 4,000 cases and is diagnosing an average of 200 cases a week. In 2015, the country tracked over 2,400 cases, compared to the 147 in 2014.
Colombian officials urged women to delay pregnancy due to the outbreak.
“It is recommended that women postpone — to the extent possible — the decision to become pregnant until the country can move out of the epidemic phase of the Zika virus,” pleaded the Health Ministry.
Zika has also caused the rare Guillain-Barré syndrome. Colombian officials confirmed three deaths connected to the syndrome. Santos estimates 1,000 cases of Guillan-Barré before the outbreak ends.
A survivor based in New York City told CBS News his joints “felt like lead weights.” The “prize-winning Brazilian-American well known in the performing arts” did not want CBS to identify him.
The man known as João and twelve colleagues contracted Zika last spring while in Brazil. He developed Guillain-Barré syndrome shortly after he recovered from Zika.
The syndrome struck Patricia Brito, a cashier at a local bakery. One day she could not move her legs. She soon could not feel “her arms, her face and the rest of her body.” Doctors placed “her on a ventilator in an intensive care unit for 40 days.” Brito attends physical therapy “to avoid using a wheelchair.”
El Salvador recorded 46 cases of Guillain-Barré between December 1 and January 6. The country averages 14 cases a month. Venezuelan Health Minister Luisana Melo announced 255 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Former Health minister Jose Oletta claimed that number proves Venezuela has more than the estimated 4,500 Zika cases.
Last week, Colombia Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria accused Venezuela of hiding thousands of cases of Zika. He claims the socialist country is the weakest link in the fight because officials have “no systematic reporting of the data.” The lack of data worries Colombian officials because the countries share borders.
“This is a serious problem,” stated Gaviria.
The Norte de Santandar province, which shares a border with Venezuela, has the highest amount of Zika cases in Colombia. It also has the largest amount of pregnant women with the virus.