Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, and Martha Lucía Ospina Martínez, MD, MPH, MBA, director general of Colombia’s Instituto Nacional de Salud (INS), have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate on Zika virus response activities in Colombia, particularly the effect of Zika virus during pregnancy. The new MOU includes collaboration between CDC and the INS on public health surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory, vector, and other public health response activities related to Zika virus in Colombia.
“Colombia has been a superb partner in the fight against Zika. This collaboration will provide critical scientific information to help the United States, Colombia, and other countries prepare for the unprecedented challenges posed by Zika,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
Since February 2016, CDC and the INS have collaborated on Proyecto VEZ (Vigilancia de Embarazadas con Zika) to implement enhanced surveillance of women infected with Zika during pregnancy in three sites across Colombia. Through this collaboration, CDC and INS hope to better understand the full range of potential health problems after Zika virus infection in pregnancy. To date, the project has enrolled more than 900 pregnant women with Zika virus disease into the surveillance system.
The two agencies will also begin a prospective cohort study, ZEN Colombia (Zika en Embarazadas y Niños en Colombia), to investigate the longer-term effects of Zika virus infection during pregnancy. The study will include symptomatic and asymptomatic Zika virus-infected pregnant women, their male partners, and their children.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and severe brain defects in the developing fetus. According to Colombia’s national surveillance system, more than 102,000 people in Colombia have been infected with Zika virus since the start of their epidemic in October 2015, including more than 18,000 pregnant women.