As panic swirls around the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus linked to severe brain damage in infants, El Salvador has issued an unusual piece of advice to women: stop getting pregnant.
The Central American nation has advised all women to hold off on getting pregnant until 2018, when the government projects the dangers of the virus will be better understood, the New York Times reports.
Zika has been linked to microcephaly, a rare condition that causes incomplete brain development in infants. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that further research on this link is needed, the outbreak of the virus in Brazil presents alarming data. There, more than a million people have been infected and nearly 4,000 children have been born with the condition.
Zika has already taken hold in 21 countries and territories of the Americas and will almost certainly continue to spread, the World Health Organization said in an update Sunday.
On Wednesday, the CDC said there are at least “a dozen or so” confirmed cases of Zika virus in the United States already, according to the Washington Post. The states affected include: Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas. Health officials added that there is no risk to the public as all the cases documented so far have been in returning travelers who were likely infected by mosquitos while traveling abroad.
Hawaii health officials said a baby recently born with microcephaly at an Oahu hospital to a mother who had lived in Brazil was infected with the virus while in utero.
Officials in Colombia and Ecuador have also urged women to delay becoming pregnant until the dangers of the virus are better understood, the New York Times reports.
While some health officials have urged pregnant woman to avoid the 2016 Olympics in Rio to avoid exposure to Zika infected mosquitos, the country’s Ministry of Health has promised assist organizers in preventing the spread of the virus.