Update: Colombia has confirmed that more than 2,100 pregnant women have contracted the Zika virus, the New York Times reports. More than 37% of those women live in the Norte de Santander province, near the country's border with Venezuela. The Colombian Health Ministry added that a woman carrying the Zika virus would be allowed to get an abortion, despite the country's otherwise strict restrictions, because it falls within specific criteria. The procedure is typically reserved for cases of rape, serious health issues, or fetal deformity. As the Times notes, however, women living outside of cities have been struggling to find abortion providers, resulting in "widespread" illegal abortions.
Update, January 24: El Salvador joins Brazil in advising its citizens against pregnancy until 2018. The New York Times reports that a surge in birth defects across the region linked to the virus is the reason for this suggestion from the country's health officials. Colombia and Ecuador have also recommended delaying pregnancy, but not for such a long period of time.
Update, January 16: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising pregnant women to delay travel to 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the New York Times. This warning comes in response to a significant uptick in cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is linked to brain damage in babies. The 14 countries and territories to which this advisory applies include: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. According to Dr. Lyle R. Peters, the CDC's chief of vector-borne diseases, entire countries were placed on this list "unless there is specific evidence the virus is not occurring somewhere." Women who are considering becoming pregnant should consult their doctors before traveling to countries on this list, and all travelers are advised to take precautions against mosquito bites. The CDC has never before advised pregnant women against traveling to a specific region. The warning — which will likely have a significant impact upon the travel industry — appears to be the first of its kind.
This story was originally published on December 27, 2015. The outbreak of a mosquito-borne virus called Zika has prompted Brazilian officials to warn women against getting pregnant, CNN reports. The warning comes after a significant rise in cases of newborn microcephaly this year, with 2,400 cases in 2015 compared to 2014's 147. Microcephaly is a congenital neurological condition that presents with an abnormally small head and brain development issues. Premature death can also occur. The disorder has been linked to Zika after mothers of affected babies reported having virus-like symptoms, including a rash, mild fever, and headaches at the beginning of their pregnancies. In November, an autopsy of an affected infant revealed the presence of the Zika virus. Six states have now declared a state of emergency. According to Brazil's Health Ministry, the Zika outbreak has seen between half million and 1.5 million cases. The virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also present in small numbers in Texas, Hawaii, and Florida. Special precautions are being made as Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the Summer Olympics next summer, including the monitoring of pregnant women. For those who are considering starting a family, however, health officials are advising safety first. "It's a very personal decision, but at this moment of uncertainty, if families can put off their pregnancy plans, that's what we're recommending," Brazilian pediatric infectologist Angela Rocha told CNN.