Zika Virus Symptoms Seen in More Than 5,000 Pregnant Colombian Women: Government

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Feb 14, 2016 05:30 AM EST

The Zika virus has grown to become a global health problem that several nations -- especially in the Latin Americas -- are trying very hard to contain and address. The virus is typically transmitted to people primarily through the bite of Aedes species mosquito that carries the virus. Recently, reports of the virus being transmitted sexually or through blood transfusion has also arisen.

According to the CDC, about one in five people infected with the Zika virus become ill, with symptoms ranging from fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis to muscle pain and headache. Zika virus is especially a threat to pregnant women since the virus may be passed on from the mother to the fetus.

In addition, there has been a link between Zika virus infections and the number of babies born with congenital microcephaly, a condition in which the size of the child's head is significantly smaller than expected for their age or sex at the time.

Reuters reports that Colombia has been largely hit by the virus, causing 31,555 cases -- among them 5,013 pregnant women. The rate of Zika-infected persons has increased by 23% from last week's figures and, more alarmingly, the rate of pregnant women who had the virus has increased by 57.8%.

The good news is that there are no recorded cases of microcephaly linked to Zika virus infections in Colombia, a stark contrast to what is going on in Brazil, where health officials are looking to find out the real relationship of Zika virus to such birth defects.

Meanwhile, researchers have confirmed over 460 cases of microcephaly in Colombia, 41 of which had evidence of a Zika infection. Colombia's health authorities claim that 29.4% of pregnant women who were infected with Zika virus live in Norte de Santander, which lies in the eastern border of Venezuela. In addition, 12,488 cases of the virus has been found in popular Colombian tourist destinations Cartagena and Santa Marta.

"It looks like the virus changed in some way. I'm afraid there is some change in the genome. This is Zika-plus. A mutation," Dr. Marco Fonseca, a neuro-surgeon in Cucuta, told BBC. He suspects that the spread of Zika virus was assisted by the World Cup in 2014, largely due to the large volume of travelers. He also suspects it will travel north to the U.S.

"It's going to go to California. With the Olympics it will go a little faster," Dr. Fonseca commented. Meanwhile, governments are continuing to issue health warnings to the public to help raise awareness on how to eliminate or decrease the proliferation of these mosquitoes, and what to do when one has been infected by the virus.

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