Rousseff calls on Brazilians to unite against Zika virus

President Rousseff calls on Brazilians to unite against mosquito that causes microcephaly in new born babies

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and Health Minister Marcelo Castro (L) walk during their visit to the National Control Center of combat viruses zika, dengue and chikungunya in Brasilia, Brazil, January 29, 2016.

Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, announced the struggle with Zika virus on Friday, which threatens the country and called on Brazil to unite while vowing to “win this war” against the mosquitos, where researchers have linked to a rare birth defect.

She said an operation to eliminate breeding areas for the Aedes aegypti mosquito has begun at all installations run by the armed forces and at all federal educational, health and other facilities.

Rousseff called on the society to participate in throwing out standing water and discarded food to containers in eliminating areas.

"We are losing the battle against the mosquito. As long as the mosquito keeps reproducing, each and every one of us is losing the battle against the mosquito. So we have to mobilise so we do not lose this battle."

"The government, churches, football teams, labour unions ... everyone must do their part to eliminate the breeding grounds," she said. "We will win this war."

The United States President, Barack Obama, spoke with Rousseff by phone on late Friday and discussed their concerns about spread of the Zika virus.

Both leaders agreed on the struggle with the disease, and discussed working together to lead research and accelerate development for vaccines and other technologies to control the mosquito-borne virus.

They also agreed to cooperate with regional and other countries around the world to fight the threat from infectious diseases more broadly.

Brazilian Health Minister, Marcelo Castro, told reporters that the mosquito is not stronger than the entire country, and repeated Rousseff’s phrase “We will this war.”

Castro said, "We have asked the people to clean their homes and now the government is cleaning its home," referring to the federal operation.

Brazil once won the fight against Zika virus in 1958 and declared free of the mosquito. But the effort faded and it returned from neighbouring countries.

Zika spreads explosively

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday that the Zika virus is "spreading explosively" and may infect between three to four million people over 12 months throughout the Americas, including one and a half million people in Brazil.

The mosquito borne virus is linked to the birth of thousands of babies with microcephaly in Brazil. The babies are born with unusually small heads and underdeveloped brains.

In May 2015, Brazil reported its first case of the Zika virus disease. Since then, the disease has spread within Brazil and to other countries in the region.

On Friday, Germany confirmed five Zika cases between October 2015 and January 2016.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika. It was first discovered in Africa in 1947.

Although it causes a mild illness in most people, there is mounting evidence from Brazil that infection in pregnant women is linked to microcephaly.

Brazil has reported around 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly, vastly more than in an average year.

TRTWorld and agencies