The Cape Verde archipelago off West Africa has identified its first case of the neurological disorder microcephaly, thought to be linked to the Zika virus, in what would be a first for the continent.

"What we are doing right now is gathering samples from the child's mother and sending them today to the Pasteur Institute of Dakar (Senegal) for evaluation," said Minister of Health Cristina Fontes.

"There is a case of microcephaly and we want to investigate to see if there is this link (to Zika)," Fontes said.

The volcanic archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean around 570 km (350 miles) west of Senegal has historic ties to Brazil, where an outbreak of Zika is suspected of causing a spike in birth defects including babies born with abnormally small heads.

The World Health Organization in February declared the virus an international public health emergency due to its link to the birth defects in Brazil.

Authorities in West Africa aim to prepare the region's defences in case of a spread of Zika but say countries are ill-equipped for another public health emergency following the Ebola epidemic that was first announced in March 2014.

The Cape Verde government says more than 7,000 cases of Zika have been recorded since the beginning of the epidemic in October 2015, with heavier than normal rains last summer leading to a rise in the number of mosquitoes.