Brazilian President Declares War on Zika; Calls on Ibero-America, Caribbean To Mobilize in Regional Effort
Jan. 28, 2016 (EIRNS)—Speaking yesterday in Quito, Ecuador at the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced that she has declared "war" on the Zika virus which is devastating her population. With possibly over one million Zika cases nationwide, and 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly in newborns—an abnormally small cranium which inhibits brain development—linked to Zika, Brazil is the epicenter of the virus which has now appeared in 24 nations and territories in the Americas.
For that reason, Rousseff also called on Celac’s 33 member governments to launch a region wide mobilization, using their experience in combatting diseases such as dengue, to combat the Zika transmission vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Health ministers of Mercosur (Common Market of the South), and Unasur (Union of South American Nations) will be holding emergency meetings over the next few days to map out a war plan. "We are also going to cooperate in the area of scientific and technological research," Rousseff underscored, "because we know this is the only way to cooperate and share among ourselves the best means to combat the virus and the best technologies to use," Sputnik News reported today.
Inside Brazil, Rousseff has said that "everyone is going to have to get involved in this war, because otherwise we lose." She began to mobilize the armed forces last November, but beginning Feb. 1, units of the army, navy and air force—fully 60% of their manpower—will be deployed in coordinated fashion, to inform and educate the population, locate and destroy foci of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, and provide free repellent, especially to poor citizens and pregnant women who can’t otherwise afford it. Government officials have also met with representatives of companies that produce repellent, to ensure continued supply. Defense Minister Aldo Rebelo reported in a press conference that military manpower will be deployed in four phases to reach three million residents in some of the largest state capitals, as well hundreds of those municipalities most affected by the virus.
The challenge is enormous. According to Dr. Alexander Precioso, director of Clinical Trials and Surveillance at Brazil’s prestigious Butantan Institute, "a large part of the population is not immune; that is, it’s susceptible to Zika. The mosquito is all over the country, and all over the Americas. The number of cases will progressively increase. This is the ideal situation for it to become both endemic and epidemic."