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article imageNIH director says of Zika spread: 'A pandemic in progress'

By Karen Graham     Jan 26, 2016 in World
Rio De Janeiro - Brazil's health minister made headlines over remarks he made about Brazil's actions in battling the Zika virus. Brazilian dailies have quoted the minister as saying the country is “badly losing the battle” against the mosquito that transmits Zika.
With the World Health Organization (WHO) warning that the Zika virus could spread to every country in the America's except Canada and Chile, the race is on to create a vaccine for this infection that may be responsible for birth defects in newborns.
At this time, there is no treatment or vaccine that is effective against the Zika virus. The only protection is to avoid countries or regions where the virus is active. This is why travel warnings against travel to countries where Zika is present have been issued for women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant
Piracicaba, a city in Southern Brazil was the focus of a pilot project in April 2014 where thousands of genetically modified male Aedes mosquitoes were released. According to a Digital Journal story on Tuesday, the city had an 82 percent reduction in the wild mosquito population.
However, Brazil needs help right now. The Guardian is reporting Health Minister Marcelo Castro was quoted by Rio de Janeiro's O Globo newspaper as saying 220,000 members of the armed forces will be going door-to-door, helping in the mosquito eradication efforts. Castro also said the government was going to distribute mosquito repellent to over 400,000 pregnant women who are on cash-transfer benefits.
“The mosquito has been here in Brazil for three decades, and we are badly losing the battle against the mosquito,” the Folha de S Paulo newspaper quoted Castro as saying as a crisis group on Zika was meeting in the capital, Brasília. So in the meantime, traditional methods are being used to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits not only the Zika virus, but dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever.
Rio Carnival is a big concern
There is concern that the large crowds of people coming together at Rio Carnival on February 7 and 8 could be a factor in the spread of the Zika virus. The city sent fumigators to Sambadrome stadium on Tuesday to spray the venue where the festivities will be held.
"The concern is very great in all of Rio because it's a city for mega events. During the carnival there'll be crowds of people from different parts of the world and Brazil, which will help the virus get in," said Marcos Vinicius Ferreira, spokesman for Rio's health department.
There are also fears that the upcoming Summer Olympics could be impacted because of the Zika virus outbreak. Both Olympic and Carnival officials have been downplaying the crisis, saying they are confident current measures being used to control the virus should be enough that tourists, athletes and locals chance of infection are minimal, reports Reuters.
However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute or Health is taking the spread of the Zika virus very seriously. CNN quotes him: "That's a pandemic in progress. It isn't as if it's turning around and dying out, it's getting worse and worse as the days go by."
More about Zika virus, badly losing battle, Aedes aegypti, Rio carnival, Birth defects
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