A health worker fumigates the Soyapango in El Salvador. (Photo: Reuters)
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El Salvador Hit by Zika Virus, Urges Against Pregnancies Until ‘18

El Salvador on Thursday urged women in the country to avoid getting pregnant until 2018 in an effort to avoid their children developingbirth defects from the mosquito-borne Zika virus that has rampaged through theAmericas.

The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito,which is also known to carry the dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya viruses.Health experts are unsure why the virus, which was first detected in Africa in1947 but unknown in the Americas until last year, is spreading so rapidly inBrazil and neighbouring countries.

Although research is still underway, significant evidence in Brazil shows a link between Zika infections and rising cases of microcephaly, a neurological disorder in which infants are born with smaller craniums and brains.

El Salvador’s Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza said the government came to this decision because 5,397 cases of the Zika virus had been detected in the Central American nation in 2015 and the first few days of this year.

Official figures show 96 pregnant women are suspected of having contracted the virus, but so far none have had babies born with microcephaly.