By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The biggest challenge for Brazil today in the health sector is the combat against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits dengue, Zika and Chikungunya, said Brazilian Health Minister Ricardo Barros on Monday. Barros also voiced his concern for the forecast of an increase in cases of the Chikungunya virus, during the 2016-2017 summer season.
“We have to fight the mosquito,” said Barros during a press conference to discuss his 200 days in office. “That’s the big challenge,” he stressed.
Adding the combat will depend on the communities because ‘there is no public structure capable of being everywhere to eliminate outbreaks’. According to the official 263,000 cases of Chikungunya fever were recorded this year, compared with 36,000 in 2015.
Although the health official puts the fight against the mosquito and the viruses it carries as a top priority, he cannot say when the first mosquito repellents will be distributed freely to pregnant women, as promised by the federal government a year ago during the peak of the Zika epidemic in Brazil.
Barros stated that bureaucracy has delayed the government in distributing the repellent to the more than 474,000 pregnant women registered in the Bolsa Family social program. “Unfortunately bureaucracy has delayed [the distribution], but the resources are available and we will distribute them [repellents] as soon as possible,” he said.
According to the government’s initial calendar, pregnant women registered in the social program would be receiving the repellent this month, when there is a significant increase of contamination of viruses carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquitos.
Barros stated that one of the main problems with distribution is that the government did not find a single manufacturer able to produce the high volume of the product needed. The health minister, however, did say that the product will be delivered in early 2017 and will be available for the vulnerable population.