Colombia has major Zika epidemic nationwide

Since the Zika virus first appeared in Colombia, this country has reported the largest epidemic next to Brazil. In total, there hae been 58,838 cases, of whom 2,361 have had confirmatory laboratory tests. The most affected departments include Cartagena, Santa Marta, the Island of San Andrés, Meta, Quindío and Valle del Cauca.

There has been a corresponding increase in reported cases of Guillian-Barre Syndrome that may be caused by this virus. It is not yet clear if this country will also experience an increase in microcephaly cases as happened in Brazil.

Visit our Health Library for more information on exposure to and the prevention of Zika Fever.

Advice For Travellers

The risk of exposure to this virus may be high in various parts of the country.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for this infection. Travellers can minimize the risk of exposure by taking all necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Since infection with this virus usually causes no symptoms or a rather mild illness similar to flu, there may be many infected people in the community.

There is growing scientific evidence that this virus may be the cause of microcephaly (small brain) in newborn infants. As a precautionary measure, women who are pregnant in their first trimester should consider postponing travel to countries where this virus is spreading or, at a minimum, take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Guillain–Barré syndrome is relatively rare condition characterized by the rapid-onset of a neurological illness with muscle weakness that may develop over half a day to four weeks and that may affect the breathing muscles.

At present, the association between Zika virus and this syndrome has not been confirmed by further scientific evidence. If neurological symptoms appear after visiting areas where Zika virus is present, travellers should consult their physician immediately.

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