International health authorities urged South American countries Wednesday to take preventative measures against the painful zika virus following the first reported case in Colombia.
Nine cases of the virus were reported earlier this month in the Colombian department of Bolivar, according to a joint statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
“Given the increased transmission of zika virus in the Region of the Americas, PAHO/WHO recommends that its member states establish and maintain the capacity to detect and confirm cases of Zika virus infection, prepare their health services for a potential additional burden at all levels of health care, and implement an effective public communications strategy to reduce the mosquitoes that transmit this disease, particularly in areas where this vector is present,” the organizations said.
Until recently zika was unknown in South America.
“Since 2014, indigenous circulation of Zika virus has been detected in the Americas. In February 2014, the public health authorities of Chile confirmed the first case of indigenous transmission of Zika virus infection on Easter Island, and cases were reported until June 2014,” the WHO and PAHO stated.
Since then, the virus has also been reported in Brazil's north.
The mosquito-borne virus causes symptoms similar to dengue fever and chikungunya, including fever and joint pain. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there are no recorded cases of zika leading to death, and symptoms normally last no longer than a week.