2/08/2016

Brazil is Losing the Battle


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Brazil's health minister says the country will mobilize some 220,000 troops to battle the mosquito blamed for spreading a virus suspected of causing birth defects, but he also was quoted recently as saying the battle already is being lost.

Marcelo Castro said that nearly 220,000 members of Brazil's Armed Forces would go door-to-door to help in mosquito eradication efforts ahead of the country's Carnival celebrations, according to Rio de Janeiro's O Globo newspaper. 

It also quoted Castro as saying the government would distribute mosquito repellent to some 400,000 pregnant women who receive cash-transfer benefits.

And all major Brazilian dailies quoted Castro as saying the country is "badly losing the battle" against the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

"The mosquito has been here in Brazil for three decades, and we are badly losing the battle against the mosquito," Folha de S. Paulo newspaper quoted him as saying as a crisis group on Zika was meeting in the capital, Brasilia.

Emails to Castro's office for comment were not immediately answered.

A massive eradication effort eliminated Aedes aegypti from Brazil during the 1950s, but the mosquito slowly returned over the following decades from neighboring nations, public health experts have said. 

That led to outbreaks of dengue, which was recorded in record numbers last year.

The arrival of Zika in Brazil last year initially caused little alarm, as the virus' symptoms are generally much milder than those of dengue. 

It didn't become a crisis until late in the year, when researchers made the link with a dramatic increase in reported cases of microcephaly, a rare birth defect that sees babies born with unusually small heads and can cause lasting developmental problems.

Worry about the rapid spread of Zika has expanded across the nation, and the hemisphere beyond. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised pregnant women to reconsider travel to Brazil and 21 other countries and territories with Zika outbreaks.

Officials in El Salvador, Colombia and Brazil have suggested women stop getting pregnant until the crisis has passed.

Repellent has disappeared from many Brazilian pharmacies and prices for the product have tripled or even quadrupled where it's still available in recent weeks since the government announced a suspected link between Zika virus and microcephaly
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