Honduras has stepped up health facilities for pregnant women in the Central American nation amidst outbreak fears of the Zika virus, with reported cases topping more than 600.
Zika, which has spread across the Americas, has been linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in Brazil, leading health authorities in Colombia and El Salvador to advise women against getting pregnant for anywhere up to two years.
Hundreds of cases have been reported nationally in Honduras, and one U.S. citizen has reportedly contracted the virus while on holiday in the country.
An official from the PanAmerican Organisation for Health, Romeo Montoya, told Reuters the regional body is concerned about the spread of the virus across the Americas.
“The PanAmerican Organisation, like the Health Ministry, is worried about and is acting on the sanitary problem that we have in various countries in Latin America. We know that Zika is spreading exponentially in various countries and Honduras, being a country also with the transmission of Chikungunya, Zika and Dengue, could see unfortunate consequences,” he said.
The Zika virus, linked to severe birth defects in thousands of babies in Brazil, is “spreading explosively” and could infect as many as 4 million people in the Americas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday (January 28).
Authorities in Honduras have begun a fumigation campaign to help control the mosquito population that could possibly carry the virus. But Montoya said those measures will only have a limited effect if the population is not on board.
“The more cleaning that is done, the more fumigation that is done won’t have the same impact if the population doesn’t do the same. That is why the request and concern with this problem as the population doesn’t have a level of concern or importance of having a breeding ground for the mosquito in their houses. This is also a risk as they could be a transmitter (of the virus) and can have this illness,” added Montoya.
Nearby El Salvador has urged women to avoid getting pregnant until 2018. So far Honduras has not issued that health advice.
Chief gynaecologist at Tegucigalpa’s main hospital, Ana Raquel Gomez, outlines its procedures for assessing at-risk pregnant women.
“There should be importance given to pre-natal control. Pre-natal control is basic because here, with detection, if there is a complication, if the height of the pregnancy is not in accordance with the gestational period, then there will be an early ultrasound of the baby at 20 weeks to evaluate the growth of the cephalic circumference,” she said.
Director-General Margaret Chan has told members of the U.N. health agency’s executive board the spread of the mosquito-borne disease had gone from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions. The WHO would convene an emergency meeting on Monday (February 1) to help determine its response, she said.