RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff authorized health officials to enter private properties by force if necessary in an effort to control the spread of the mosquito-borne virus Zika, which the government has dubbed an "imminent danger to public health."
The presidential decree was published in the government's official gazette on Monday and allows the forced entry by health officials into public and private properties if they have been abandoned or the owners are not present.
Officials are looking for breeding grounds for mosquitoes that can carry the virus, which has spread rapidly over the Americas and particularly in Brazil. The World Health Organization is meeting on Monday to decide whether to declare a global emergency.
Although scientific research is still sparse on Zika, it is believed to be linked to increased rates of microcephaly in newborns, a condition in which the child is born with a smaller than average brain that can cause severe health and learning disabilities.
Local officials suspect nearly 4,000 babies may have been born recently with the condition, mostly in Brazil's northeast.
Zika is also suspected of having links to a rare condition known as Guillain-Barre, which can cause paralysis and death in extreme cases, in adults and children with compromised immune systems.
(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Reese Ewing; Editing by Mary Milliken)