Brazil calls on its neighbours to unite against Zika

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff calls on neighbouring countries to unite in fight against Zika virus

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff at the Planalto Palace, Brazil, January 19, 2016

Brazil urged its neighbours to unite in combating the Zika virus on Thursday. The virus causes babies to be born with microcephaly or abnormally small heads.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff took action against the virus. She had asked at the summit of the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to launch "cooperative action in the fight against the Zika virus."

The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes and moves very quickly, it has affected travellers from the Unites States and Europe. For now, there is no specific treatment and no way to prevent Zika. The only solution is to avoid mosquito bites.

Brazil has been the country most affected by the outbreak of the virus, which is said to be the cause for a huge increase in infants born with microcephaly or abnormally small heads.

In Brazil, cases of microcephaly have surged from 163 a year average to more than 3,718 suspected cases since the outbreak of the virus, according to the Health Ministry.

Microcephaly can cause brain damage or death in babies, 68 babies have already died.

President of Brazil called a meeting of health ministers from around the region to address the outbreak next Tuesday in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo.

She vowed to wage a "house-by-house fight" against Zika. Soldiers will go door-to-door to wipe out mosquito breeding grounds.

Zika has spread to some 20 countries in Latin America and the World Health Organisation (WHO) expects it to spread to every country in the Americas except Canada and Chile.

European countries report Zika infections among travellers returning from Latin America, a total of 21 Zika cases were detected.

Airlines are offering refunds to pregnant mothers afraid to travel to the region. An American Airlines spokesman said the company was offering refunds to pregnant women with flights booked to Brazil and 10 other countries and territories affected by the virus. Another US airline, Delta, said some its passengers may also qualify for a refund.

Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica have warned women to avoid getting pregnant for the time being.

Costa Rica said, it was preparing health questionnaires for those entering the country, in order to detect travellers carrying the virus.

Health officials around the region have launched fumigation campaigns and clean-ups to kill the mosquitoes and stop them breeding.

Zika causes flu-like symptoms and a rash, and is so mild that it goes undetected in 70 to 80 percent of cases. But it has been linked to some disturbing complications.

In addition to risk of birth defects in babies, Zika patients also develop Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological disorder that can cause paralysis or even death, says health officials.

Brazil is preparing to host the Summer Olympics in August and the officials are highly concerned. Hundreds of thousands of travellers from around the world are expected to attend the Olympic games, in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil has promised to protect the athletes and fans by intensifying inspections of all venues.