Brazil Finally Breaks Free from the Zika Virus Epidemic
After wreaking havoc for nearly 18 months in Brazil, the Zika virus was officially declared to have ended on May 11, 2017. This decision of the Brazilian government stemmed from the fact that a reduction of 95% cases was observed in the last year, which prompted the government to rescind the state of emergency. This is following the announcement by the World Health Organization in November 2016, withdrawing the international emergency related to the virus.
The severity of the infection due to Zika was fully realized by the Brazilian government in 2015, when it was found to cause serious birth defects such as microcephaly, which reduces the size of the skulls of babies. Panic spread throughout the country when photos of infected babies were circulated through the media. Brazil’s tourism sector was widely hit by the outspread of Zika virus as many travellers began cancelling tours to the Zika-infected parts of the globe. The virus posed a great threat to the then upcoming 2016 Olympic Games, which were to be held in Brazil.
The Zika virus is spread by the Aedis aegypti mosquito which is responsible for the spread of dengue and chikungunya as well. The Brazilian government launched several counteractive measures to curb the spread of the virus, including a mosquito eradication campaign and the fumigation of over 20 million homes in the core infected areas. It also released of millions of genetically modified mosquitos, so that the offspring born after the mating of the same with the Aedis aegypti would be born sterile. Wolbachia, a bacterium that infects the Aedis aegypti and prevents it from spreading the disease was also introduced. These efforts successfully reduced the number of infected patients by nearly 80% in the first 3 months of the campaign.
On 11th May, 2017, the health ministry of Brazil decided to lift the Zika emergency; however, the country remains in a state of vigilance. In the words of Adeilson Cavalcante, the Secretary of the health ministry, ‘The end of emergency doesn’t mean the end of surveillance or assistance.’
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