The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Thursday that the Zika virus infection may infect up to four million people as it is spreading “explosively”.
Currently, 1.5 million people are estimated to have been affected by the Zika virus.
The WHO also called for an emergency meeting on February 1, 2016 to decide if the outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease should be declared an international health emergency.
A statement by Christian Lindmeier, WHO Communications Officer, reads:
WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, will convene an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Zika virus and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations.
The Committee will meet on Monday 1 February in Geneva to ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Decisions concerning the Committee’s membership and advice will be made public on WHO’s website.
In May 2015, Brazil reported its first case of Zika virus disease. Since then, the disease has spread within Brazil and to 22 other countries and territories in the region.
Arrival of the virus in some countries of the Americas, notably Brazil, has been associated with a steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a poorly understood condition in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, sometimes resulting in paralysis.
A causal relationship between Zika virus infection and birth defects and neurological syndromes has not been established, but is strongly suspected.