As El Salvador saw a spike in confirmed cases of the Zika virus, its government made a controversial announcement: that women should avoid pregnancy for the next year. But in a region where contraception is taboo and laws restrict access to family planning, that could put women's health and freedom at risk.
El Salvador's Ministry of Health reported an estimated 7,138 suspected cases of the Zika virus were detected between December and January of 2016. In a country of just 6 million people, the seemingly sudden rise of this health crisis seized those expecting or attempting to get pregnant with fears of devastating fetal defects like microcephaly, hearing loss and impaired growth.
Newsy investigates the roles of the church and government in Salvadoran reproductive rights, the link between Zika and birth defects, the rise of Guillain-Barre syndrome, and recent medical breakthroughs that all highlight the international significance of El Salvador's struggle to combat the virus.
This is the first part in a three-part series on the Zika virus. Part two looks at the chain reaction set off by the virus in Latin America. Part three explores preparations in the U.S. and what can be learned from El Salvador's struggle with Zika.