BOGOTA – Colombia has seen more than 47,700 cases of Zika, including thousands of pregnant women infected with the mosquito-borne virus, the country’s National Health Institute reported Saturday.
A total of 8,890 pregnant women have come down with the disease, which has been tentatively linked to a serious birth defect known as microcephaly affecting babies born to women who became infected while pregnant.
Of the 47,771 cases now reported, 5,065 were registered in the last week alone. Among those, 1,237 cases were pregnant women.
Although the disease’s symptoms are generally mild and include low fever, headaches and joint pain, Zika’s rapid spread has raised alarm in Latin America due to its association with several more serious health conditions.
Apart from its links to microcephaly, an irreversible condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and brains, it is also suspected of causing Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder.
The virus has infected people across 282 Colombian municipalities, 67 percent of them women. The 25-to-29 age group was the most affected, comprising about 14 percent of cases.
Clinical exams were used to identify 39,924 of the cases in Colombia. Lab tests confirmed 2,090 more, and another 5,757 are suspected cases.
Colombia has reported the largest number of cases in Latin America after Brazil, where the outbreak was first detected last year and where 1.5 million Zika cases have been reported.
Health authorities project that more than 600,000 people will be infected with the Zika virus this year in Colombia.