Colombia confirms two microcephaly cases

Two cases of microcephaly linked to the Zika virus have been confirmed in Colombia, but there has been no explosion of cases of the birth defect, the health ministry says.

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Public health officials have been concerned about the possibility of a surge in the rare birth defect, seen in worrisome numbers in Brazil, as the mosquito-borne virus spreads rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

More than 1100 Zika-related cases of microcephaly have been confirmed in Brazil, but the new figures indicated that its neighbour Colombia is not yet experiencing the same type of increase.

There have been 33 microcephaly cases recorded this year in Colombia associated with various causes, the health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Eighteen were investigated for a suspected link to Zika, and 16 of those cases were ruled out, it said.

Babies with microcephaly are born with unusually small heads that can result in developmental problems.

“We have not seen an explosion in cases of microcephaly,” vice health minister Fernando Ruiz said, adding that in typical years, Colombia records 11 or 12 cases a month.

“We have a number of cases within normal range,” Ruiz added.

There eventually could be a total of between 95 and 300 cases of microcephaly in Colombia this year, the ministry said.

US health authorities on Wednesday announced their conclusion that infection with the Zika virus during pregnancy causes microcephaly in babies.

The World Health Organization has said there is a strong scientific consensus that Zika can cause microcephaly as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can result in paralysis.