The first case of the Zika virus in the Americas was recorded in Brazil in May 2015. Since then, the virus has spread through half of South America, much of Central America and Mexico. Some cases have been reported in the southern United States.
The Zika virus is most often transmitted by a certain species of mosquito. Usually infection does not cause serious illness. However, some reports from Brazil suggest a connection between virus infections and microcephaly in babies developing in the womb. The infection appears to be passed from a pregnant mother to her unborn child.
The Centers for Disease Control in its Feb. 26 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, has said "laboratory evidence from a limited number of cases with microcephaly" has supported a link between virus infection and microcephaly.
Microcephaly is a medical condition in which babies have small heads. Accompanying conditions can range from mild to severe. Severe problems may include seizures, vision or hearing problems, and developmental disabilities, the Centers for Disease Control said.
Abortion advocates have used the virus' possible connection with microcephaly to push for expanded legal abortion in South and Central America.
On Feb. 5, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights, headed by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein of Jordan, released a statement urging countries suffering from the epidemic to provide women "quality sexual and reproductive health services and information." This included "safe abortion services."