More than 2,100 pregnant Colombian women are infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the country’s national health institute said on Saturday, as the disease continued its spread across the Americas.
The virus has been linked to the devastating birth defect microcephaly, which prevents the brain of a fetus from developing properly. There is no vaccine.
There are 20,297 confirmed cases of the virus in Colombia, the national health institute said in a epidemiology bulletin, and among them are 2,116 pregnant women.
There are so far no reported cases of microcephaly or deaths from the virus in Colombia.
The institute said 37.2 percent of pregnant women with Zika live in Norte de Santander Province, along the eastern border with Venezuela.
Zika cases have been confirmed in 23 countries and territories in the Americas, and scientists are racing to develop a vaccine for the virus.
The Colombian Health Ministry has said that Zika infection falls within the health requirements that women must meet to get abortions in the country, which restricts the procedure unless patients are victims of rape, have significant medical problems or the fetus is fatally deformed.
Many women, especially those living far from large cities, struggle to find abortion providers even when they meet the legal requirements, and illegal abortions are widespread.
The government has urged women to delay pregnancy for six to eight months to avoid potential infection. Officials expect up to 700,000 cases to be diagnosed.
Brazil is the country hit hardest by the virus. It has reported about 3,700 cases of microcephaly that are strongly suspected to be related to Zika.