By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The government of Brazil announced on Wednesday (January 27th) it was placing 220,000 armed forces personnel to help combat the mosquito which transmits the Zika virus. According to Defense Minister, Aldo Rebelo, the three branches of the armed forces will be at hand in 356 municipalities throughout Brazil to help end the proliferation of the mosquito.
“The Armed Forces, who already help in combating the Aedes aegypti mosquito will now intensify the mobilization where there is a greater incidence of reports,” said Minister Rebelo during a press conference.
According to Rebelo the armed forces will clean abandoned lots and areas, distribute pamphlets with guidelines on how to kill the mosquito larvae and will inspect houses and places where the proliferation of the mosquito may occur.
The Ministry of Defense stated that the action would be divided into four stages. During the first stage, on February 4th, personnel will try to eradicate the mosquito breeding grounds on all Armed Forces installations throughout Brazil.
On February 13th, 220,000 men and women from the Army, Navy and Air Force will go door-to-door in all the major cities in Brazil inspecting homes and locations where mosquito breeding grounds are reported. According to officials approximately three million residences will be visited on that day.
The third stage will be from February 15th to 18th, when 50,000 soldiers will revisit locations where breeding grounds were found. “We believe that when we come back a great part of the work will already be done by the homeowners,” said Chief of Joint Staff of the Armed Forces, Admiral Ademir Sobrinho.
The last stage involves military officials going to public and private schools to teach children how to spot breeding grounds and prevent the larvae from turning into a mosquito.
The federal government also announced that it will start distributing mosquito repellents to pregnant women registered in the Bolsa Familia welfare program. According to government data there are 400,000 women who are currently pregnant and registered in the program.
The Zika virus was first detected in Africa in the 1940s but was relatively unknown in the Americas until last year when there was a surge in reported cases, especially in the Northeastern part of Brazil.
Since then, the Zika virus has been linked to the increased amount of babies born with microcephaly. Microcephaly is characterized by the abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.
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.