In a step to intensify its fight against the mosquito transmitting the Zika virus, Brazil’s government launched a nationwide campaign on Saturday, with President Dilma Rousseff and cabinet ministers personally visiting homes in addition to the graduation of soldiers from weeks of special training to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The government said 220,000 members of the armed forces accompanied by community health agents and mosquito control teams are joining the efforts to educate the population on how to eradicate Aedes aegypti mosquito breeding areas in and around their homes.
In the neighborhood of Zepellin in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Rousseff underscored the importance of everyone taking part in the battle against the mosquito carrying Zika, suspected of causing the birth defect microcephaly.
The government said troops will visit three million homes to hand out explanatory pamphlets.
“These leaflets and the presence of the military are always well received by the population, and this will help to spread knowledge. The important thing now is educating the Brazilian population about the problems the country is now facing with this diseases, which is not only here, it is in the United States and in other countries, which are aware that this is an international crisis,” said General Ramos, the military commander.
Twenty-seven cabinet ministers including central bank Chief Alexandre Tombini participated in the operation across 356 towns and cities on Saturday.
There are currently no vaccines or treatment for the virus, though research institutes and pharmaceutical companies are working on several possibilities.
“Brazil and the world have lost the battle against dengue, but we won the war against yellow fever, which is carried by the same mosquito. We will win the war against Zika,” Rousseff said as she launched the campaign, which also targets other mosquito-borne diseases.
Soldiers in Sao Paulo handed out fliers with the slogan “A mosquito isn’t stronger than a whole country” at entrances to the popular Ibirapuera park. Troops also visited homes in downtown Brasilia.
The so-called National Day for “Zero Zika” is aimed at raising awareness about the disease, Rousseff said. Later this month, other operations specially focused on spreading larvicides and eliminating breeding spots will be launched.
More than 70,000 troops were deployed in Rio de Janeiro, which will host the Olympic Games in August, Rousseff said, adding that sports authorities have said the Zika outbreak did not jeopardize the event.
With too much ambiguity surrounding Zika virus, Brazil is investigating the potential link between Zika infections and more than 4,300 suspected cases of microcephaly, a condition characterized by abnormally small head size that can result in developmental problems.
The Zika outbreak is disturbing large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Its spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile is in the offing, the World Health Organization has said.