Zika is a worrisome disease for many pregnant women, especially in Brazil, but in Columbia the disease is having an impact on expectant and new mothers in a different way.
The mosquito borne illness has affected the fetuses of expectant mothers in Brazil on an astounding level. Hundreds of babies have been born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads which will affect the children for the rest of their lives.
However, in Columbia, the Zika virus attacks the expectant mother instead. So far, there has yet to be one report of a case of microcephaly thought to have been linked to the virus.
According to The Blade, Zika has spread quickly in Columbia. Since October, 26,000 men and women have contracted Zika, but it is estimated that by June, nearly 600,000 could have the Zika virus. Around 3,177 pregnant women have gotten Zika, but none have delivered babies with microcephaly.
The concern doesn’t end there for new mothers, though. Many wonder how Zika will affect their children in the years to come. It is thought that Zika attacks neural tissues, and the issues that babies may have because of the Zika virus may not become apparent until the babies are older.
Zika worries mothers in Columbia over the future of babies exposed to the virus because health officials seem to know so little about how the disease could affect the children.
Diego Garcia Londono, the Colombian Ministry of Health’s director of the transmissible diseases department, considers pregnancies affected by Zika to be “high risk” and suggests that women avoid becoming pregnant for another six months until authorities can get the situation under control.
Columbia has seen a spike in Guillain-Barre syndrome since October, crediting a 50 percent rise in the nervous disorder which causes partial paralysis to mostly victims, mostly over the age of 40. It is suspected that the Zika infections are the cause of the spikes in these cases.
According to NPR, Guillain-Barre syndrome basically triggers the immune system to attack nerve cells, making it harder and harder for a person to move. It may begin with a numbness and tingling in the limbs, and then progress to worse symptoms, like total paralysis and even death. Some people may not have more than the numbness and tingling in the arms and legs.
Recovery is a long and slow process. In the worst cases, some people never recover the ability to walk again. Guillain-Barre syndrome is typically very rare, but in Columbia it is showing up more frequently than ever before. Health officials believe it is due to the Zika virus.
As for pregnancies that may be affected by the Zika virus, Columbia has strict abortion laws, which only allow women to have abortions in the event that the baby has detectable deformities or if it threatens the mother’s life if she continues with the pregnancy.
Dr. Juan Carlos Vargas, research director at Bogota-based Profamilia, a privately funded organization comparable to Planned Parenthood, said, “All women here have the right to interrupt a pregnancy if the possibility of having a deformed baby threatens their mental equilibrium.”
Right now, authorities are focusing on educating the population in Columbia about the Zika virus and how to combat the mosquito populations. Even though Columbia is in the midst of an economic crisis, it is vital that the country find resources to control the mosquito populations to combat the spread of the Zika virus. For now, there is no vaccine available to block the effects of the Zika virus.
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