Brazil deploys 220,000 troops to battle Zika mosquitoes
More than 200,000 army, navy and air force troops fanned out across Brazil on Saturday to teach people how to eliminate the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the Zika virus.
The nationwide offensive is part of President Dilma Rousseff’s declared war on the virus that has quickly spread across the Americas and that many health officials believe is linked to severe birth defects.
According to Brazil’s government, about 220,000 members of the armed forces accompanied by community health agents and mosquito control teams were deployed Saturday to help educate the population on how to eliminate mosquito breeding areas in and around their homes. The teams were expected to visit 3 million homes in 350 cities to distribute explanatory pamphlets.
Wearing a white T-shirt printed with the campaign’s “Zero Zika” slogan, Rousseff visited Rio de Janeiro’s working class neighborhood of Zeppelin. She was accompanied by Mayor Eduardo Paes and Rio de Janeiro state governor Luiz Fernando Pezao.
Rousseff said in brief comments to reporters that the Zika outbreak will not stop this year’s Olympic Games from being held in Rio de Janeiro as scheduled, starting on Aug. 5.
To attract the attention of commuters at Rio’s main train station, an army band played Michael Jackson’s music while soldiers distributed fliers with information on eliminating mosquito breeding places.
“We must all understand that combating the mosquito is a priority,” said Brazilian Army spokesman Col. Gerson Freitas.
A Health Ministry employee fumigates a home against the Aedes aegypti mosquito to prevent the spread of the Zika virus in Soyapango, El Salvador. Health authorities have issued a national alert against the mosquito.(Marvin Recinos / AFP/Getty Images)
An Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Brazil.(Felipe Dana / Associated Press)
Gleyse Kelly da Silva holds her daughter, Maria Giovanna, who was born with microcephaly, outside their house in Recife, Brazil. Brazilian officials believe there’s a sharp increase in cases of microcephaly and strongly suspect the Zika virus.(Felipe Dana / Associated Press)
Soldiers canvass a neighborhood in Recife, Brazil, informing the public of preventive methods in an effort to eradicate the mosquitos that transmit the Zika virus.(Mario Tama / Getty Images)
Estafany Perreira holds her nephew David Henrique Ferreira, 5 months, who has microcephaly, in Recife, Brazil. In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4,000 cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants.(Mario Tama / Getty Images)
Carmen Chicas Mejia, 82, covers her mouth and nose while city workers fumigate her home in San Salvador to combat the mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus.(Salvador Melendez / Associated Press)
Health ministry employees spray to eliminate breeding sites of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito in a cemetery in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.(Orlando Sierra / AFP/Getty Images)
A municipal worker gestures during an operation in Recife, Brazil, to combat mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus.(Felipe Dana / Associated Press)
A city worker fumigates to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus, at the San Judas Community in San Salvador.(Salvador Melendez / Associated Press)
A city worker helps homebound Simon Jose Valentin, 94, leave his San Salvador home while it is fumigated.(Salvador Melendez / Associated Press)
A worker of the Salvadorean Ministry of Health fumigates a house in Soyapango, El Salvador.(Oscar Rivera / European Pressphoto Agency)
The O Globo newspaper reported Saturday that troops participating in the Rio de Janeiro campaign are avoiding slums dominated by drug-trafficking gangs.
Outside Maracana Stadium, Japanese tourist Noko Sudrura said that she put aside concerns about the Zika virus so she could experience Brazil’s recent Carnival.
“So if I get sick, I will only have myself to blame,” she laughed.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito lives largely inside homes and can lay eggs in even a bottle-cap’s worth of stagnant water. The dishes beneath potted plants are a favorite spot, as are abandoned tires, bird feeders and even the little puddles of rainwater that collect in the folds of plastic tarps.
The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 and subsequently spread to parts of Asia. Brazil recorded its first case in mid-2015. Researchers don’t know how the virus made the jump, but two theories suggest it may have arrived with tourists visiting the country for the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament or for an international canoeing competition the same year.
Zika’s immediate effects are mild, consisting mostly of a moderate fever and a rash, and only a fifth of those afflicted notice any symptoms.
But Brazilian authorities also say they have detected a spike in cases of microcephaly, a condition that leaves infants with unusually small heads and can result in brain damage and numerous developmental and health problems. The link between Zika and microcephaly remains unproven.
Since October, 5,079 suspected cases of microcephaly have been reported, Brazil’s Health Ministry said on Friday. Of those, 462 cases had been confirmed and 765 discarded. Of the confirmed cases, 41 have been connected to Zika.
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