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InternationalAt war with Zika

March 1, 2016








Brazil is at war with some tiny enemies, mosquitoes. Government troops and citizens must work fast because the mosquitoes are rapidly spreading the Zika virus. Brazilians, especially pregnant women, feel panic. The Zika virus may be a cause for the birth defect microcephaly.

Female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the problem. They bite humans because they need blood to reproduce. They carry the Zika virus from person to person through the saliva in their bite. These mosquitoes have spread yellow fever and dengue for years, but now they also carry the Zika virus.

The Zika virus appeared in Uganda in 1947, but only just arrived in the Americas in Brazil in May 2015. Since then, the government estimates 1.5 million cases of Zika virus.

Most adults show no symptoms or flu-like symptoms. However, the Zika virus may cause microcephaly in newborns. Babies with microcephaly have unusually small heads and can have brain damage. The Brazilian Ministry of Health is investigating Zika virus in 2,782 cases of microcephaly in newborns in 2015, a large increase from 147 microcephaly cases in 2014.

With no vaccine to stop the Zika virus, prevention is important. 220,000 soldiers along with government officials are teaching Brazilians how to deal with mosquitoes, including advice on how to seal water containers or treat water with insecticide. Another 50,000 soldiers are actively destroying mosquito-breeding areas.

The protection of mothers and children is a huge community and governmental challenge. These mosquitoes number in the millions and only need a small bottle cap of standing water to breed.

Published March 2016

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