The government of Honduras has declared a state of national emergency, saying it has recorded 3,649 suspected cases of Zika virus infections in less than three months.
Health minister Yolani Batres is urging Hondurans to clean up their homes and communities and remove outdoor water containers that serve as breeding grounds for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that can transmit Zika.
The health ministry says the government has reactivated the National Risk Management System to coordinate preventive measures against Zika.
In a statement released late Monday, the health ministry says the designation made earlier in the day will help countries around the world develop a coordinated effort to combat the virus.
The statement notes WHO did not suggest that people stay away from or stop doing business in areas with outbreaks of Zika, which is believed to be linked to microcephaly, a rare birth defect that causes abnormally small head size and brain damage in infants.
The Brazilian president's chief of staff says it will take researchers between three and five years to develop a vaccine against the Zika virus.
Health officials on Monday added American Samoa, Costa Rica, Curacao (koor-uh-SOW') and Nicaragua to the list of places with outbreaks where travelers should take precautions against the mosquito-borne virus.
Because of mounting evidence linking Zika infections to a birth defect, the government recommends that pregnant women consider postponing trips to places on the list.
The agency convened an emergency meeting of independent experts on Monday to assess the outbreak after noting a suspicious link between Zika's arrival in Brazil last year and a surge in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads.
The last such public health emergency was declared for the devastating 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people.
The World Health Organization has begun a crisis meeting considering whether the explosive spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus which is linked to birth defects in the Americas should be declared a global health emergency.
[...] emergency declarations are meant as an international SOS signal and usually trigger increased money and efforts to stop the outbreak, as well as prompting research into possible treatments and vaccines.