Cases of the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease causing birth defects in women, have dropped to 600 cases a week in Colombia, the country’s Vice Health Minister Fernando Ruiz told journalists Monday.
About 100,000 Colombians have been affected by the disease, with 21 cases of microcephaly, according to Colombian government statistics.
“We can declare that the epidemic is ended,” Ruiz declared Monday as quoted by the Globe and Mail. “Colombia is the first country on the American continent to declare an end to the epidemic.”
Ruiz added that, despite claims by experts that 80% of those affected by the virus do not show symptoms, the asymptomatic and symptomatic infections should be declining at the same rate, and that infections are likely under-reported. Ruiz qualified his pronouncement that the virus was at an end by saying that although the rate of infections has declined dramatically, it does not mean that infections are at an end.
While the virus may be on the way out in Colombia, the verdict remains unclear in the U.S.. On Friday, New York City reported the first case in New York of a baby born with microcephaly due to exposure to the virus. New York City Department of Health Officials said the infant’s mother contracted the virus while visiting an area affected by it.
According to the World Health Organization, the Zika virus can also cause Guillan-Barre, a neurological condition leading to temporary paralysis in adults, the Globe and Mail website reports.