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In recent weeks, the Zika virus has taken center stage and it is estimated that currently 1.5million Brazilians may be infected with Zika.

  19 January 2016 13:02

Brilio.net - Brazil has been struck with an epidemic of the Zika virus, just in time for the annual festivities of Carnival taking place in a mere two weeks and the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, that will be the first ever in South America.

Brazil’s tropical climate is ground zero for mosquito borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya. But in recent weeks, the Zika virus has taken center stage and it is estimated that currently 1.5million Brazilians may be infected with Zika. The virus is particularly dangerous to pregnant woman as it is directly linked to microcephaly, a neurological condition in which the human fetus develops an undersized brain and skull. Brazil has reported more than 3,500 cases of microcephaly since October, compared to only 147 reported cases in 2015. This number is slight in comparison to the 100,000 estimated cases that Dr. Artur Timerman a leading specialist of the Society of Dengue and Arbovirus, a nongovernmental organization, predicts will plague the largest South American nation.

Two cases in the U.S., one in Hawaii where the mother spent a part of her pregnancy in Brazil and one in Puerto Rico, has promoted the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a travel warning to pregnant women, saying that they should not travel to the 14 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, where the virus has spread.

In light of current events, the response of the Brazilian government has been under critique. The initial response was slow and rather inadequate, as the gravity was not fully understood. Furthermore, Brazil has been in an economic recession that some claim has left federal facilities understaffed and overworked. Some hospitals and facilities in Rio de Janerio closed temporarily late last year due to a lack of funding. “This is an unprecedented situation, unprecedented in world scientific research”, announced the Brazilian Health Ministry on its website. There is no vaccine for Zika and the symptoms of headaches, fever and mild rash are often overlooked.

Until a vaccine is developed, officials have increased prevention programs. In Rio de Janeiro alone, officials have made over 9million house visits to eradicate stagnant pools of water, which could be the breeding ground for the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Another prevention tool that the Brazilian Health Ministry is recommending is possibly radical yet perhaps necessary in light of recent events. “It's a very personal decision, but at this moment of uncertainty, if families can put off their pregnancy plans, that's what we're recommending," Angela Rocha, the pediatric infectologist at Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Brazil's hardest-hit state, told CNN.

With hot and humid rainy reason just now beginning, the spike in the Zika virus could just now be beginning. Take heed from the Brazilian officials recommendation and don’t leave the mosquito spray at home.

(Reported by Ivana Lucic)

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