Alarm over thousands of birth defects blamed on the mosquito-borne Zika virus spread on Friday with health ministers in three countries urging women to postpone pregnancy.
The authorities in Ecuador, Colombia and El Salvador have recommended that couples avoid pregnancy for the time being. A medical school in Honduras issued the same advice.
Meanwhile the United States expanded a travel warning for pregnant women.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended the list of countries on its no-go list for pregnant women.
It added Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde and Samoa. It also added itself to the list as Zika cases have been confirmed in New York and Florida.
Last week, the agency urged pregnant women and women considering becoming pregnant to postpone visits to Puerto Rico, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Surinam and Venezuela.
With the sting of a mosquito bite and a fever, many pregnant women may not know that they caught the Zika virus – until it strikes their unborn child.
Babies across the region, and at least one in the United States, have been born with abnormally smaller heads – a condition doctors call microcephaly, which can cause brain damage.
Chinese bank gives Ecuador a $970 credit line
Ecuador has received a $970 million credit line from China’s, ICBC bank. It is part of a $6.8 billion loan package the country negotiated with the Chinese government and Chinese banks in 2015. The money will go to help Ecuador pay internal debts that have resulted due to the sharp drop in oil prices.
A year ago, during a visit to Beijing, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa announced that China’s Ex-Im Bank would extend a $5.3bn credit line to help maintain public spending, while he secured another $1.5 billion from ICBC and the China Development Bank, as well as other funds.
China, which is grappling with an economic slowdown of its own, has been Ecuador’s main lender since 2009 when the country was shunned from international debt markets after a voluntary default. Since then, Ecuador has returned the debt markets and recently paid off a series of bonds.
Feds accuse jungle province of violating laws
The Ecuadorian government is accusing Morona Santiago Province of failing to obtain the necessary permissions for the construction of a highway in an area it considers environmentally sensitive.
The province is located east of Cuenca, and is part of the highland headwaters of the Amazon River.
Last week, Ecuador environmental minister Daniel Ortega Pacheco visited the site and said that despite the order from Quito, road work was continuing. He found recently used heavy equipment at the site.
Boris Cordova, an official with the national transportation ministry, said the provincial government broke the law not only by violating environmental laws, but by conducting road work with permits. He said his ministry is taking steps to confiscate the road building machinery.