The Zika virus epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean is most affecting Brazil, with over one million cases estimated. Colombia reports over 18,000 confirmed and 2,000 suspected cases and anticipates over 650,000. El Salvador reports over 6,000 suspected cases. Venezuela reports over 4,500 confirmed cases, however unofficial estimates are thought to be as high as 400,000.
An alert to the first confirmed case of Zika virus in Brazil was issued in May 2015 by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). As of 1 February, Zika has been confirmed in 23 countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean. The spread of the disease is likely to continue as the vector species, the Aedes mosquito, is widely distributed in the region.
On 1 February 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a public health emergency, following a significant increase in the number of reported cases since the start of the year. The last time WHO declared a global health emergency was during the Ebola outbreak. The current Zika outbreak is unlikely to present a crisis of the same scale; the declaration has been issued to fast-track aid and further research, particularly due to a potential link with neurological disorders and congenital birth defects.