The Zika virus has become a public health crisis across much of Latin America and has been linked to birth defects in newborns whose mothers were exposed to infected mosquitoes. At least 20 countries have registered transmission of the virus, and the hardest hit is Brazil.
CCTV America’s Paulo Cabral reports from Recife, Brazil.
Brazil works to combat Zika virus; women urged not to get pregnantThe Zika virus has become a public health crisis across much of Latin America and has been linked to birth defects in newborns whose mothers were exposed to infected mosquitoes. At least 20 countries have registered transmission of the virus, and the hardest hit is Brazil. CCTV Ameirca's Paulo Cabral reports from Recife, Brazil.
The capital of the Brazilian State of Pernambuco is the area hardest hit by the Zika virus epidemic and the consequent spike in cases of infant deformities. Doctors at the Oswaldo Cruz University Hospital were among the first to notice the rise in newborns with microcephaly.
It became a daily routine to see mothers here looking for help for their babies. Most of them are from poor areas of the State where the lack of sanitation contributes to the proliferation of mosquitoes.
Doctors here say there’s a clear correlation between the exposure to the Zika virus and microcephaly but are yet unable to explain why. The only real advice to women for now: avoid getting pregnant.
“I have been a doctor specialized in infectious diseases for over 40 decades and this was something totally unexpected. There’s nothing in medical literature about this,” said Angela Rocha, a physician who heads the Infectious Disease Department. “So, it was very stressful for us and for the mothers. Many were panicking and we had to talk a lot to them. Some still held on to the hope that everything would be all right and we had to tell them that it wouldn’t.”
A task force of scientists has been created to study the problem and try to come up with solutions and government has designated funding to research a vaccine – but these are all in initial stages. For now avoiding mosquito bites is the best pregnant women can do.
The Zika Virus his a recent arrival in Brazil, but the mosquito that spreads the disease, Aedes Aegypti, is well known and an old problem for health authorities here. It’s the same mosquito that carries the virus of the dengue fever and of the yellow fever. So the government have stepped up efforts to fight it.
The army was called in to help health inspectors look for breeding grounds. It’s not easy work: any container of standing water can hold eggs and larvae. Along this street, every home had at least one person infected. The agents go from house to house to check and inform people about the dangers of the Aedes Aegypti, and emphasize the importance of prevention.
Fighting a new virus and an old established insect is a tough task for health authorities here and in other parts of the world. But it’s importance is undeniable– for an entire generation at risk.