More than 20 Zika virus-related birth defects have been confirmed in the Dominican Republic since January, according to the World Health Organization. Officials say the mosquito-borne disease has spread to 24 Caribbean nations and more than 70 countries in the Americas.
So far, with cases at least as high as 1,800 in the Caribbean, and many more potentially occurring, that means there could be as many as 1 million pregnancies infected by the virus over the next two years.
Doctors aren’t sure what is behind the Dominican Republic’s sudden surge in cases, saying the timing, place and the sex of the parents could be factors. In a single four-week period starting in mid-February, more than 1,200 birth defects of the brain or spinal cord were reported in the country. In comparison, during the first four months of 2015, only 178 such cases were reported.
Meanwhile, there were no reports in February of the mosquito-borne virus in Colombia.
The Dominican Republic’s situation, while alarming, likely isn’t as dire as the Zika cases detected in France.