Over 3,100 pregnant Colombian women infected with Zika virus, says president

25,645 cases reported across the country so far

Over 3,100 pregnant Colombian women infected with Zika virus, says president

In this Dec. 23, 2015 photo, Solange Ferreira bathes her son Jose Wesley in a bucket at their house in Poco Fundo, Pernambuco state, Brazil. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

More than 3,100 pregnant women are infected with the Zika virus in Colombia, the country's president has said.

They are among the 25,645 cases reported nationwide so far, as the mosquito-borne disease continues to spread rapidly across the Americas.

President Juan Manuel Santos also projected there could be up to 600,000 infections in 2016.

At present, there is no known treatment or vaccine for the Zika virus, which has been linked to microcephaly - a birth defect which can prevent the brains of foetuses from developing properly.

However, Mr Santos stressed there had been no Zika-linked microcephaly reported in Colombia so far, which can cause babies to be born with abnormally small heads and brains.

During a televised news conference with health officials, the president warned there may be up to 1,000 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome as a result of the crisis.

That rare condition - in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves - can cause paralysis, and some South American nations have linked it to the Zika virus.

On Friday, it was confirmed that three people had died in Colombia after contracting the Zika virus - in what was believed to be the first time health officials had directly blamed the disease for causing fatalities.

Another six deaths are currently being investigated.

Martha Lucia Ospina, the director of Colombia's national health institute, has warned the number of deaths will rise.

Colombia has begun to wage a battle against mosquitoes - and families in rural communities are receiving the help they need to fumigate their homes and get rid of stagnant water.

An estimated 80% of those who develop the Zika virus do not present with any symptoms - which means the true number of people currently infected in Colombia could actually number between 80,000 and 100,000.

Those who are symptomatic usually develop a fever, red eyes and rashes.

The UN has urged for women to receive increased access to abortion over fears of severe birth defects.

Brazil, where the virus is most prevalent, said Zika had been detected in urine and saliva, and officials there and in the US warned even kissing could potentially spread the disease.

The World Health Organisation has declared an international emergency and warned Zika could infect up to four million people in the Americas and spread worldwide.