A global emergency has been declared by the World Health Organization over the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
The declaration followed the convening of an emergency meeting on Monday, to assess the outbreak, following an observation that the arrival of the virus in Brazil last year, coincided with a surge in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads.
Speaking following the meeting in Geneva, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.“After a review of the evidence, the committee advised that the clusters of microcephaly and other neurological complications constitute an extraordinary event and public health threat to other parts of the world.”
Work is now underway to prove or disprove any connection between Zika and microcephaly, with WHO officials saying it could be six to nine months before we know definitively.
The organisation currently estimates that there could be up to 4 million cases of Zika in the Americas in the next year.
The last public health emergency declared by WHO was in response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people.