Britain's Oxford University warned that a virus known as Zika, which is carried by mosquitoes and has caused a major outbreak in Brazil, has "the potential of rapid spread to new areas."
Zika was first detected in Africa in the 1940s and was unknown in the Americas until last year, but has now been confirmed in Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Suriname, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Guatemala and Paraguay, according to public health officials. It is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which thrives in tropical climates and can also carry other diseases such as yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya.
Thousands of people in Brazil have been infected by Zika. While the virus is not thought to kill, health authorities there last year linked it to a surge in babies born with microcephaly, restricted head growth that seriously limits a child's mental and physical abilities.
After Ebola, Two Other Tropical Diseases Pose New Threats