CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela has confirmed the first Zika-related deaths in the South American country.

President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday that at least three people have died in Venezuela due to complications related to the mosquito-borne Zika virus. He added that 68 people have been hospitalized with complications confirmed to be related to the virus.

Venezuela is reporting more than 5,000 suspected cases of Zika since November of last year. Local health organizations say the real number of Zika is likely much higher.

Zika hit Brazil last year at the same time as the country saw a sudden, dramatic jump in cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads.

Investigators are also studying a possible link to Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis and is sometimes fatal.