Quito, Ecuador — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff vowed yesterday to wage a “house-by-house fight” against Zika, the virus blamed for causing a surge in brain-damaged babies and sowing fear ahead of the 2016 Olympics, reports AP.
Brazil has been the country hardest hit by the outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in Latin America, and has seen a sharp rise in infants born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads.
The outbreak is worrying officials as the country prepares to host the Olympics, which will bring hundreds of thousands of travellers from around the world to Rio de Janeiro in August.
According to AP, Rousseff said Brazil would place “extreme emphasis” on wiping out mosquito breeding grounds, combatting transmission of the disease and looking for a vaccine against the Zika virus, for which there is no specific treatment.
“It’s going to be a house-by-house fight,” she said at a regional summit in Ecuador.
“Although we don’t have a vaccine today, I’m sure we will have one, though it will take time.”
Brazil’s health minister announced Monday that 200,000 soldiers would be deployed to go house to house as part of a mosquito control campaign. Insect repellant will be handed out to at least 400,000 pregnant women, he said.
In Brazil, cases of microcephaly, which can cause brain damage or death, have risen from 163 per year on average to 3,893 since the Zika virus outbreak began last year.
Forty-nine of the babies have died.