El Salvadorean government recommended that all women in the entire country refrain from getting pregnant for the next two years. The extreme recommendation was made in an attempt to prevent children from being born with brain damage due to the Zika virus.
Colombia has also recommended that women avoid getting pregnant, but only for the next six to eight months.
According to Reuters, 5,397 cases of the virus were reported in El Salvador in 2015. 96 pregnant women are suspected of having contracted the disease, but thus far, no baby has been affected.
“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,” said Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza. Women who are already pregnant should attempt to stay covered up while outdoors.
The virus is carried and transmitted by the Aedes species mosquitoes (which also carry dengue and chikungunya viruses) and can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, although only one in five people who carry the virus ever show symptoms. Pregnant women, however, are likely to pass the virus onto their babies, potentially causing microencephaly—a birth defect causing babies to be born with an abnormally small head, and often, brain damage.
On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women in the U.S. to avoid travel to 13 countries affected by the virus in Latin America and the Caribbean. The travel advisory applies to El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.
Zika virus: What you need to know – BBC News:
Zika virus spreading explosively, says World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation has convened an emergency committee to discuss the “explosive” spread of the Zika virus, which has been linked to thousands of birth defects in Latin America.
“Last year the disease was detected in the Americas, where it is spreading explosively,” Margaret Chan, the WHO director general, said at a special briefing in Geneva. It was “deeply concerning” that the virus had now been detected in 23 countries in the Americas, she added.
One WHO scientist estimated there could be 3-4m Zika infections in the Americas over the next year.
“The possible links have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions. The increased incidence of microcephaly is particularly alarming as it places a heartbreaking burden on families and communities.”
Chan outlined four reasons for alarm: “First, the possible association of infection with birth malformations and neurological syndromes. Second, the potential for further international spread given the wide geographical distribution of the mosquito vector. Third, the lack of population immunity in newly affected areas. Fourth, the absence of vaccines.”
Brazilian authorities estimate the country could have up to 1m Zika infections by now, and since September, the country has registered nearly 4,000 cases of babies with microcephaly.
The Zika outbreak and spike in microcephaly cases have been concentrated in the poor and underdeveloped north-east. But the south-east, where São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are located, is the nation’s second hardest-hit region. Rio de Janeiro is of particular concern, since it will host the Olympic games this summer.
The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, said the IOC was in “close contact” with Brazilian authorities and the WHO, and that all national Olympic bodies would be advised on how to deal with the virus before the Games started.
The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, has pledged to wage war against the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the virus, focusing on getting rid of the insect’s breeding grounds.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Thursday that previous research into dengue fever, the West Nile virus and the chikungunya virus would give scientists an “existing vaccine platform” which could be used as “a jumping-off point” for finding a cure to the Zika virus.
“It is important to note that we will not have a widely available safe and effective Zika vaccine this year and probably not in the next few years,” Fauci said, before adding that scientists might be able to begin “a phased clinical trial in this calendar year”.
Did you know? Facts about Americas catholic regulations:
Abortion is 100% illegal in El Salvador. Not even for the health of the mother or the baby or in the case of rape and incest.
Salvadorian women have been thrown in jail for miscarrying. El Salvador has moved backwards. In 1973, its criminal code permitted the termination of pregnancies in cases of rape, congenital foetal defects or when the mother’s life was at risk. This, though, was superseded by a revised constitution in which article one stated that human beings come into existence from the moment of conception.
Abortion – or miscarriages treated as suspected abortions – can be regarded as murder, which can carry a 40-year sentence.
Roman Catholic Church allowed and justified the use of condoms only in 2010.
Sources: jezebel.com/avoiding pregnancy, theguardian.com/zika virus, telegraph.co.uk/catholic church, theguardian.com/abortions
Authors: Joanna Rothkopf/jezebel, Matthew Weaver and Sally Desmond /theguardian
Photo credit: apimages.com
Video: BBC news youtube