Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria. Photo: Reuters
The mosquito-borne Zika virus has already infected more
than 13,500 people in Colombia and could hit as many as
700,000, the health minister warns.
According to Pan-American Health Organisation figures, the
country is second only to Brazil in infection rates,
Alejandro Gaviria told journalists on Wednesday.
"We expect an expansion similar to what we had with the
chikungunya virus last year, to finish with between 600,000
to 700,000 cases," he said.
Some 560 pregnant women are among those infected, the
minister said, though so far no cases of newborns suffering
from microcephaly, a congenital defect caused by Zika, have
been registered in the country.
The government is advising Colombian women to delay becoming
pregnant for six to eight months in a bid to avoid potential
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention last week
warned pregnant women to avoid travel to 14 countries,
including Colombia, which borders Brazil, and territories in
the Caribbean and Latin America affected by the virus.
Alarm over the virus comes two weeks before nationwide
Carnival celebrations - a highlight of Brazil's tourism
calendar - and nearly 200 days before Rio de Janeiro hosts
the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics, the first in