Hermano Telles Ribeiro, Cônsul-Geral do Brasil em Atlanta, EUA
Brazil`s northeast has been at the epicenter of an outbreak of the Zika virus which is threatening travel to Latin America at an important time for the country. The CDC has cautioned pregnant women and their partners to consider delaying travel to the country. Zika can cause birth defects and has been transmitted sexually in some cases. Hermano Telles Ribeiro, Consul General of Brazil to the Southeast, discusses below how Brazil is making the Rio Olympics an inhospitable place for the mosquitoes that carry the virus and working hand-in-hand with the U.S. on prevention efforts.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus, transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito, an international public health emergency. The government of Brazil has been joining the international effort in the fight against the virus, and has partnered with the United States government for the production of a vaccine. There is continual dialogue not only with researchers from the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but also with WHO.
The Zika virus was first identified in our country last year after an outbreak in French Polynesia in 2014. According to the WHO, 24 other countries and territories of the Americas have been affected by the virus. Although it has been known for decades, this is a completely new situation in terms of international public health and also for the international scientific community ? hence the need for ongoing cooperation between countries and international organizations.
Brazil is targeting the complete eradication of the outbreak. The disease caused by this virus was swiftly characterized as an epidemic by the Brazilian public authorities. At the end of 2015, for the first time, the Brazilian authorities proved a possible association between the infection of women during pregnancy and the birth of babies with microcephaly, a serious congenital condition in which the brain does not develop properly. This is, currently, our main concern with the virus.
The government of Brazil has created a task force without precedent with financial, technological and scientific resources aimed at the prevention and fight against the mosquito transmitting the disease in the short, medium and long run. Some 220,000 armed forces personnel have joined 300,000 public agents and volunteers all over the nation to combat the breeding grounds in residences, companies and public offices.
For the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the government has adopted major precautions. All construction areas of the Olympic venues have regular visits from environmental health officers in order to control any possible mosquito breeding sites. Any remaining reservoirs of the construction work will be removed and those that cannot be removed will be treated in order to avoid any emergence of mosquito breeding sites. Local staff will identify and eliminate possible breeding sites.
During the Games, all of the Olympic venues will be supervised by at least one accredited environmental health officer tasked with carrying out a daily sweep searching and removing any areas which could potentially become breeding sites. In addition to the accredited officers working within the Olympic venues, there will also be environmental health teams tasked with the control of mosquitoes in whole region surrounding the competition and public gathering areas.
In a visit to Brazil last week, Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, remarked that the Brazilian government is acting in a fast and firm way to ensure that the Olympic Games will not be affected by the Zika virus. Chan also praised Brazil`s "speed and courage" taken to address "such a hard challenge".
Here in Atlanta, the Consulate General of Brazil has authorized a significant number of visas for researchers from the CDC. This yet another example of cooperation between our countries. The researchers are currently in Brazil, working alongside government authorities in order to further the fight against the Zika vírus.