Colombia declares Zika epidemic over as outbreak slows
Authorities in Colombia have declared an end to the Zika epidemic in the South American nation, the second-hardest hit in the region from the mosquito-borne virus.
The number of cases of the virus has been falling steadily to as few as 600 per week compared with more than 10 times that amount at the outbreak's peak in February, the health ministry said.
Since Zika arrived in Colombia in September 2015 there have been almost 100,000 cases reported, although laboratory tests have confirmed only around 9,000.
Despite the lower risk of infection, authorities said that the virus will not disappear completely.
They are also warning that many of the 17,730 pregnant women diagnosed with Zika have yet to give birth so the number of children born with birth defects linked to the virus could rise in the coming months.
So far this year, 150 children have been born with microcephaly, a rare condition that causes unusually small heads and improperly developed brains in babies. The compares to around 90 cases in recent years before the Zika outbreak. Of the reported cases this year, only 21 have been linked to Zika.
The surge in birth defects has been much more noticeable in Brazil, the country hardest hit by Zika.
The later arrival of the virus to Colombia allowed authorities to prepare a public awareness campaign aimed especially at poor women.
Doctors say there has also been a rise in illegal abortions as many women infected with Zika fear their child could be born with birth defects.