Dominican Republic confirms 10 cases of Zika virus

Dominican Republic confirms 10 cases of Zika virus

Dominican Republic confirms 10 cases of Zika virus

A researcher collects larvae of Aedes aegypti mosquitos at a lab of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the Sao Paulo University, on January 8, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal are in Brazil to train local researchers to combat Zika the virus epidemic. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA

The Dominican Republic said on Jan. 23 that it has 10 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the ailment suspected of causing serious birth defects in newborns.

Altagracia Guzman, the Caribbean country’s health minister, said lab testing of samples sent to the United States had confirmed Zika in 10 out of 27 suspected cases. 

“In light of this finding, it is imperative to adopt strict measures across the nation to prevent and contain this illness,” Guzman was quoted as saying by AFP.

Zika has been linked to a birth defect known as microcephaly, when babies are born with malformed and abnormally small heads. It is also associated with a higher incidence of miscarriages.

Proposed measures to contain the illness include stepped-up mosquito eradication, including eliminating standing water that can be breeding grounds for the insects.

Meanwhile, New York City officials said three people in the city had tested positive for the Zika virus. 

All three had travelled to areas outside the United States where the mosquito-borne ailment is spreading rapidly, the New York State Department of Health said, without specifying where.

Officials said one person has completely recovered, while the others are still getting better.

U.S. health authorities on Jan. 24 expanded a travel warning for pregnant women to avoid 22 places in Latin America and the Caribbean due to the Zika virus.

The scare has struck hardest in Brazil, which hosts the summer Olympic Games in August.

The World Health Organization (WHO) last week noted a surge in cases of microcephaly in Brazil. WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said Jan. 22 that there were 3,893 suspected microcephaly cases in Brazil, which included 49 deaths. Before last year there were about 160 cases of microcephaly in Brazil on average.

Latin American countries urge women to delay pregnancy 

Meanwhile, health ministers of El Salvador, Colombia and Jamaica urged women to delay pregnancies. 

Alejandro Gaviria, Colombia’s health minister, called on women to delay pregnancies six to eight months. 

“We are doing this because I believe it’s a good way to communicate the risk, to tell people that there could be serious consequences,” he said. 

In Colombia, which has the second-highest Zika infection rate after Brazil, there are 560 known cases of pregnant women infected with the virus. 

Leading women’s rights campaigners criticized the recommendations, saying women in the region often have little choice about becoming pregnant. 

“It’s incredibly naive for a government to ask women to postpone getting pregnant in a context such as Colombia where more than 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned and across the region where sexual violence is prevalent,” said Monica Roa, vice president of strategy for Women’s Link Worldwide, a global women’s rights group. 

Contraception in Colombia is provided free but women, particularly in impoverished rural areas, have little access, the Colombian activist told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

Many women also do not know they can get an abortion in Colombia under certain circumstances, she said. 

“In a crisis like the Zika outbreak, the lack of sexual education is exposed,” Roa said. “Health ministries should inform rather than recommend.”