February 1, 2016 5:20 PM EST

The Department of Defense has offered to relocate any pregnant family members of active-duty personnel and civilian employees stationed in regions affected by the Zika virus.

The voluntary relocation program is accompanied by efforts by Defense Department researchers to develop vaccines, tests and treatment for the mosquito-borne disease, the Military Times reports. The prevalence of the disease in Brazil has been linked to a spike in microcephaly, a birth defect causing babies to be born with small heads. Cases of the virus have cropped up throughout North and South America, prompting the World Health Organization to declare an international public health emergency on Monday.

Navy Capt. Kyle Petersen told the Military Times that researching tropical diseases like Zika is of particular interest to the Department of Defense, which he says “traditionally targets [these diseases] that aren’t of high interest to pharmaceutical companies because our troops go into tropical countries. We want to make sure they can do their jobs, whether it’s for a humanitarian mission or operations.”

[Military Times]

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