By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Going against health officials recommendations a group of pregnant women came out to participate in this year’s Carnival street parades in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The women were participants of a family-oriented Carnival bloco (street parades) called Cordão Umbilical (Umbilical Cord) which paraded through the streets of the Humaita neighborhood on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s impossible to stay at home with a small child,” Rio resident Gabriela Ortis told Agencia Brasil on Saturday, while rehearsing a few samba steps. Ortiz, who is eight months pregnant went to the bloco with her husband and small daughter. “I am being careful, I put on (mosquito) repellent but do not stop from doing things, going places,” she says.
State-run health institute Fiocruz recommended last week that pregnant women avoid crowds so as not to be exposed to the virus. According to the institute the Zika virus has been found in saliva and urine, and although doctors still do not know if the virus may be transmitted through these, they are asking pregnant women to take extra precautions.
“We recommend pregnant women avoid sharing cups and cutlery; to avoid crowds with people bumping against each other and having the possibility of pregnant women come in contact with saliva,” stated Fiocruz President Paulo Gadelha during interview with reporters last week. According to Fiocruz scientists, tests are being conducted to determine if the virus is contagious through human contact.
The Brazilian government has been criticized for not launching a Carnival Campaign warning of the threat of the Zika virus to those participating in the five-day party holiday. According to Abrasco (Brazilian Association on Collective Health) the Ministry of Health spent approximately R$14 million on a Carnival campaign warning participants of the dangers of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis but did not include the Zika virus in its fliers and TV ads. According to health professionals due to the hundreds of thousands of people Carnival blocos bring to the streets, the increased garbage produced by party-goers produce fertile environment for the breeding of Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which does not only transmit Zika but also dengue and chikungunya fever.
The federal government has said that the Zika virus combat campaign is a specific and ongoing action that will continue during Carnival. Earlier in the month the Rousseff Administration announced t was placing 220,000 armed forces personnel to help combat the Aedes aegypti breeding grounds. President Dilma Rousseff also went on national television to ask Brazilians for an ‘all-out war’ against the mosquito. In addition to Brazil the disease has been confirmed in other Latin American countries including, Panama, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico, Suriname, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Guatemala and Paraguay, according to Reuters.
But even with all the commotion about the Zika virus and its link to microcephaly in newborns, Cristina Nunes, was present at Saturday’s bloco. “I will not become paranoid. I check once in awhile to see if there are any mosquitos on my legs…(but) but will not become frantic or stay indoors because of it (virus), only watchful.”