Experts at the World Health Organisation have classified the virus as a public health emergency of international concern.
The true scale of the devastating Zika virus is seen for the first time as newborn babies affected by shrunken head syndrome were rushed into hospital in their dozens.
As experts at the World Health Organisation convened to classify the virus as a public health emergency of international concern, doctors in Brazil were forced to hold emergency clinics to deal with the huge number of children affected.
It came as the NHS said pregnant women who have travelled to Zika infected regions should be given immediate ultrasounds in the UK.
British couples have already been warned to put off trying for a baby for up to six months if either partner suffered an unexplained fever or rash after travelling to one of 23 countries where Zika is present.
Now the NHS has said pregnant women who have travelled to regions with the disease should be closely monitored, even if they have shown no signs of an infection.
Zika carrier: Aedes Aegypti mosquito
Those who have been to infected areas will receive an immediate ultrasound while any pregnant woman showing symptoms will be given monthly ultrasounds even if they have tested negative for the disease.
The new NHS guidance said: “If you are pregnant and have a history of travel to a country where there is an ongoing Zika virus outbreak, see your GP or midwife and mention your travel history even if you have not been unwell.
“Your midwife or hospital doctor will discuss the risk with you and will arrange an ultrasound scan of your baby to monitor growth.”
The health service spoke as politicians and health experts in Geneva discussed what needed to be done to stop the growing Zika epidemic.
Thousands of miles away The Mirror was being given exclusive access to the Brazilian hospital now at the forefront of the battle against the outbreak.
Their battle comes a YEAR after doctors in Recife, which has been hit hard in recent years by outbreaks of dengue, warned the Government a new virus was beginning to plague the area.
Victims were showing different symptoms to the usual seen by medics with hundreds suffering only slight temperatures and complaining of joint pain.
Many instead had rashes sooner than with dengue leading doctors to believe it could be Zika.
Local authorities however failed to act immediately only realising five months later Zika was in their midst.
In the past 12 months thousands have been affected in the area with hundreds of newborns left deformed.
We watched as baby after baby was brought in by their worried parents to the Centros Especializados em Reabilitação to see how the mosquito-carried virus had affected their newborns.
Many were learning for the first time the true scale of how their child had been affected by the calcification of their brain by the virus.
The hospital is at the epicentre of the virus which experts say will infect more than four million people by the end of the year.
Doctors in the Centros said they are at “breaking point” under the enormity of the crisis as the disease continues to grip South America.
Some parents have been left having nervous breakdowns due to the stress of caring for their affected baby with one mum abandoning her child at the doors of a hospital unable to cope.
Doctors opened extra visitations to assess 11 babies born with shrunken heads.
Bosses at the clinic say they need more than 7,000 extra doctors just to deal with the epidemic in Brazil.
Speaking to the Mirror Dr Liana Ventura, the president of the clinic – a specialist unit to treat diseases – spoke about the size of the problem now facing her country.
She said: “Throughout Brazil there are thousands of cases. There is no end in sight.
“We need help and we need it now. We are drowning in the amount of cases we are now treating.
“Each one has to undergo stringent tests to see how badly their sight, their hearing and the nervous system has been affected.
“As doctors we have to do our jobs but it is still heartbreaking to see.”
Dr Ventura spoke as she carried out tests on the the first baby in Brazil to be delivered with a shrunken head.
Tiny Luana Vieira was born on October 4.
Her mother showed no signs of illness during the pregnancy and only learnt of her child’s condition when she arrived.
The four-month-old baby underwent an exhaustive test on her vision after the virus – thought to be inflicted by the aides aegypti mosquito – left her cross eyed.
“Already Luana’s vision is well below the average for a child her age,” added Dr Ventura.
“It is sadly severely impaired but not as bad as some of the other children we see.”
As Luana was being examined her mother, Rosanna Vieira, 25, anxiously looked on alongside her other daughter Vitoria Evillen, seven.
She watched intently as Luana failed to respond to some of the tests carried out by Dr Ventura.
“None of us know what the future brings for any of our babies,” explained Rosanna.
“Luckily for us Luana is quiet calm unlike other children who appear in constant pain.
“I didn’t know anything about the virus until she was born. I was devastated. I was never ill during my pregnancy.
“When she was born I just cried and cried. It left me having a nervous breakdown within weeks of her birth.
“We need as much help as we can get, and I hope the world will see just how serious this problem is.
“There is a lifetime of pain ahead for this country. Our Government need to act. They have dragged their heels for too long.”
Rosanna explained since Luana’s birth she was fired from her job as a restaurant host after bosses became tired of the time she needed off to care for her daughter.
Elsewhere countless families have broken up due to the stress of dealing with a baby in need of 24 hour a day care.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has vowed to “win the war” against Zika virus, but some experts have criticised her government’s response and warned the upcoming Olympics in Rio could fuel the disease’s spread.
Rousseff’s remarks came after her own health minister warned Brazil was “losing the war against Aedes aegypti.”
One health expert accused the President’s administration of acting too late.
“The Brazilian government has not fought the mosquito population. That is Brazil’s great sin,” said Gubio Soares, a virologist at the Federal University of Bahia.
“Cities are not fulfilling their duty to hire qualified people. Campaigns to fight mosquitoes are insufficient.”
Brazil, the hardest hit country, sounded the alarm in October, when a rash of microcephaly cases emerged in the northeast.
Since then, there have been 270 confirmed cases of microcephaly and 3,448 suspected cases.
“We knew this was something else,” says Carlos Brito, a doctor from Recife who told state and federal health authorities in January-February last year that they were wrong to classify all the cases as dengue.
“But the authorities were slow to believe,” he said.
It took until early May for Brazil’s health ministry to recognise that the Zika virus had arrived in Brazil and to alert the World Health Organisation.