Public health emergency declared over virus-related conditionListen /
A public health emergency has been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) over a brain condition which is related to the spread of a mosquito-borne virus.
The Zika virus, which in itself is relatively harmless, has been linked to a cluster of neurological abnormalities in South America.
Daniel Dickinson has more details.
Health experts are concerned that the Zika virus is in some way responsible for a significant increase in cases of microcephaly, a condition which leads to babies being born with an abnormally small skull and deformed brain.
In Brazil there have been some 4,000 cases of the condition reported since October. Around 20 countries mainly in Central and South America are thought to be affected.
Dr Margaret Chan, the Director-General of WHO, reported the findings of an expert committee tasked with looking at the threat posed by Zika.
"The clusters of mircocephaly and other neurological complications constitute an extraordinary event and a public health threat to other parts of the world. In their view, a coordinated international response is needed to minimize the threat in affected countries and reduce the risk of further international spread. Members of the committee agreed that the situation meets the conditions for a public health emergency of international concern."
The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes.
The WHO alert means that the outbreak has been classed in the same category of concern as Ebola, a disease which has killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa.
Daniel Dickinson, United Nations