The Zika virus has sent a high-pitched wakeup call to Brazil’s Ministry of Health. Brazil’s Ministry of Health wasn’t expecting the Zika virus even though it is carried by the same mosquito species that arrive in Brazil from Africa more than 30 years ago. Brazil has had more outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya viruses than Zika through the years. In fact, Brazilian researchers didn’t know much about Zika, according to one of Brazil’s top medical advisors, Dr. Sergio Cortes.
Dr. Cortes was the Director of the State Ministry of Health in Rio from 2006 to 2013. Dr. Cortes helped prevent a major outbreak of the dengue virus when a devastating flood covered Xerém, Duque de Caxias with mud and water. The flood destroyed the dirt streets and homes that were poorly built. According to the Extra.Globo.com article, mosquito breeding grounds were everywhere as the flood waters receded. Dr. Cortes and his emergency team did an excellent job educating the people of Xerém. Topics like clean water, better sanitation habits and daily hygiene were discussed as the team passed out survival boxes provided by the Ministry of Health.
The 2013 flood was nothing compared to the 2015 Zika outbreak, according to an article on the Dr. Cortes website. The Northeastern section of Brazil was the epicenter for the Zika outbreak, but the virus quickly spread to all 26 Brazilian states. In a recent tweet, Dr. Cortes said more than two million people have been infected with the virus. Many of those people got the virus from their sexual partners. Brazilian doctors didn’t know that Zika could be transmitted from one human to another until researchers discovered the Zika virus in the semen of infected males in Recife, according to a CrunchBase.com article.
Brazil has started an aggressive Aedes aegypti mosquito eradication program using genetically altered male mosquitoes. The standard spray method isn’t effective because the mosquitoes have built up a resistance to the chemicals. Dr. Cortes did say that clean safe water, better sanitation, and daily hygiene, along with an effective mosquito eradication program are key ingredients that will help prevent the spread of tropical diseases like dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses.
There is a lot of work to do to get some Brazilian states up to the standards set by the Ministry of Health, according to Dr. Cortes. Some areas in the North and the Northeast are primitive and need more medical help.
You can follow him on Linkedin.