Jamaica’s health minister is advising women to delay plans to become pregnant for the next six to 12 months due to the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
The island has not even recorded any cases of Zika, which is spreading in the Americas and is suspected of causing over 3,500 babies to be born with brain damage in Brazil.
But Health Minister Horace Dalley says it’s just a matter of time before the dengue-like virus makes it to the island. It is already confirmed in nearby Haiti.
Dalley said Monday in a statement that pregnant women should take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
Growing evidence links Zika to microcephaly, a rare condition in which newborns have smaller than normal heads and their brains do not develop properly.
The virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eye. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week, according to the Jamaican government website. Outbreaks of Zika have occurred in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat the Zika virus.