Colombia Braced For Explosion In Zika Cases
The number of Zika cases in Colombia is expected to soar when the rainy season starts in a matter of weeks. The country’s National Institute of Health says almost 32,000 people have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne disease since the start of the epidemic.
But mosquito eggs lying dormant for up to a year will hatch within hours of coming into contact with water, leading to a population explosion.
It could lead to hundreds of thousands of cases nationwide.
Newsium travelled to the heart of the country’s epidemic, the town of Turbaco, 30 minutes inland from the tourist beaches of the Caribbean.
The first Zika case was diagnosed here in October. There have since been another 200 residents affected.
Dr Luis Padilla, the area’s health secretary, fears there will be 500 more in the coming weeks.
He is warning women not to chance having a baby with the brain damaging condition microcephaly.
“We are recommending that couples make their own decision whether to take that risk,” he said.
“But we as the authority are advising that they don’t have children for the next six months.”
The advice has come too late for some.
We tracked down Hilary Garcia, who is 16 years old and 21 weeks pregnant.
She is recovering from the fever and joint pain of Zika.
Her doctor has attempted to scan her baby and said it should be born healthy, but there are no guarantees.
Hilary said: “From what I had heard (about Zika) I was really worried and I said ‘I don’t want my baby to be ill’. So that is why I went immediately to hospital.
“I thank God. Not all women are as fortunate.”
Health workers in Turbaco are going house to house, urging people not to leave water in open containers that could allow mosquitoes to breed.
But the country is currently hotter and drier than normal because of the El Nino weather phenomenon, and people are storing large amounts of water.
We found several containers containing mosquito larvae, which would become adults in a matter of days.
Colombia is stepping up its fight against the mosquito. But it won’t be enough to stop a surge in Zika cases.