GENEVA - Independent experts to the World Health Organization began deliberating on Monday whether to declare a global emergency over the Zika virus, which has been linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil.
The designation would fast-track international action and research priorities, following criticism of a hesitant response so far.
The United Nations agency said last week the Zika virus was "spreading explosively" and could infect as many as 4 million people in the Americas.
The WHO was criticized for reacting too slowly to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa which killed more than 10,000 people, and has promised to do better in future global health crises.
The 12 committee members, who are experts in epidemiology, public health and infectious diseases from the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa, discussed the issue in a telephone conference. A news briefing will be held on Tuesday afternoon at the earliest, the WHO said.