By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A massive one-day campaign has been launched in Brazil this Saturday (February 13th) to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquito with more than 220,000 armed forces personnel expected to knock on at least three million homes and establishments looking for and destroying the mosquito’s breeding grounds. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and all her cabinet members will also be at hand to oversee the operation.
“We will be present in all states,” said Defense Minister, Aldo Rebelo. “I believe that the presence of cabinet members is proof of the commitment and effort by the federal government to contain the mosquito and the illnesses it causes,” added the official on Friday. Rebelo will be in Campinas, São Paulo, while President Rousseff will be present in Rio de Janeiro. The operation will be held in 350 municipalities throughout the country.
The Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff has asked the population to open their doors on Saturday so that armed forces personnel can inspect locations where the mosquitos usually put their larvae.
With the hashtag #zikazero, the government plans to distribute more than four million pamphlets with instructions on how to eliminate the Aedes aegypti breeding grounds. The mosquito transmits the Zika virus, as well as dengue and chikungunya fever.
In Rio de Janeiro more than 71,000 army personnel are expected hand flyers and help residents identify breeding grounds. Armed forces personnel however will not enter favelas or visit homes without the consent of the owner, according to officials.
The government’s actions, however will not stop with Saturday’s operation, according to officials. All through next week another 50 thousand army personnel will continue to visit houses looking for possible breeding grounds and spraying chemical products to inhibit the proliferation of the mosquito. In March the federal government will visit schools to instruct children on how to spot breeding grounds and destroy the larvae.
According to the Ministry of Health since January more than 23.8 million homes as well as public, commercial and industrial buildings have been visited by health officials in the government’s efforts to combat the mosquito. Historically the months of March, April and May are when cases of mosquito infections, such as dengue, are at their peak. Since late last year more than 3700 cases of Zika virus have been reported and 400 cases of microcephaly cases linked to the virus have been confirmed.