The government in Honduras has declared a state of emergency after a dengue fever outbreak that has left 16 people dead.

Health Minister Salvador Pineda said on Tuesday that the government's decree made it a national priority to prevent and control the disease and fight the mosquitoes that spread it.

Pineda said more than half of Honduras' municipalities had registered dengue fever cases. The measure expands a health alert issued on 22 June for 112 of the 298 municipalities in the country .

The authorities have been criticised for not doing enough to eliminate the breeding sites of the mosquitos that transmit dengue.

Two Hondurans died last year from the disease, when 8,000 cases were reported.

The country's worst dengue fever outbreak in recent years was in 2010, when 83 people died and more than 66,000 had the illness.

There were no deaths registered in 2011.

The disease is present in all of Central America, and until last week had caused 26 deaths and infected nearly 40,000 more so far this year.

Honduras and Nicaragua, with five deaths, lead the number of deaths in the region. The highest number of infections have been recorded in Costa Rica, totalling 17,000.

With a warm and humid climate and powerful rainy seasons, Central America is an ideal region for the mosquitoes to thrive.

Dengue causes high fever, joint pains, headache and nausea. In severe cases, it can lead to internal bleeding, liver enlargement, circulatory shutdown and death.

It affects between 50 and 100 million people in the tropics and subtropics each year.

Source: Agencies