SAO PAULO (AP) — More than 200,000 army, navy & air force troops fanned out across Brazil on Saturday to teach people how to eliminate the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the Zika virus that many health officials believe is linked to severe birth defects.
The nationwide offensive is part of President Dilma Rousseff's declared war on the virus that has quickly spread across the Americas.
According to Brazil's government, approximately 220,000 members of the armed forces accompanied by community health agents & mosquito control teams were deployed Saturday to assist educate the population on how to eliminate mosquito breeding areas in & around their homes. The teams were expected to visit 3 million homes in 350 cities to distribute explanatory pamphlets.
p>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 & Rio de Janeiro state governor Luiz Fernando Pezao.
The president visited three homes & chatted with residents approximately the importance of eliminating the breeding areas for the mosquito that moreover transmits dengue, chikungunya & yellow fever.
In one house, she sprayed insecticide in drains that could serve as mosquito breeding areas.
A woman reads a pamphlet distributed by navy sailors, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 13, …
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 flyers 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.
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 approximately the Zika virus so she could experience Brazil's recent Carnival.
Navy sailors distribute pamphlets while explaining how to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spr …
"So if I obtain sick, I will only have myself to blame," she laughed.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito lives largely inside homes & 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 & even the little puddles of rainwater that collect in the folds of plastic tarps.
The Zika virus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 & subsequently spread to parts of Asia. Brazil recorded its first case in mid-2015. Researchers don't know how the virus made the jump, yet 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.
Thanks to Aedes aegypti, the disease quickly spread across Brazil & to more than 20 countries in the region, the Caribbean & beyond, leading the World Health Organization to declare an international emergency.
Zika's immediate effects are mild, consisting mostly of a moderate fever & a rash, & only a fifth of those afflicted notice any symptoms.
But Brazilian authorities moreover say they have detected a spike in cases of microcephaly, a condition that leaves infants with unusually small heads & can result in brain damage & numerous developmental & health problems. The link between Zika & 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 & 765 discarded. Of the confirmed cases, 41 have been connected to Zika.
AP senior producer Yesica Fisch contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro.
HealthRio de JaneiroBrazilDilma RousseffZika virus
Source: “Associated Press”