After an emergency meeting on Monday, the World Health Organisation declared the spread of mosquito-borne Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, reported The Guardian. The move is meant to draw attention to the problem and increase funding for research and measures to stem spread of the disease.

WHO director Margaret Chan called the birth of thousands of babies in Brazil with microcephaly “an extraordinary event and a public health threat to other parts of the world”. She noted that it was "strongly suspected, but not yet scientifically proven" that Zika causes microcephaly.

This is just the fourth time that the health monitor has declared a public health emergency since the distinction was created in 2007, reported The Verge. Last year, Chan had faced criticism for the slow and late response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, reported The New York Times.