The Social Aspect of the Zika Virus Outbreak

How social issues in Brazil contributed to the spread of the Zika virus around the nation- Written by a Goodwall Community Member

In April 2015, an outbreak of the Zika virus began in Brazil, and has spread to other tropical countries in South America, as well as Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. A virus transmitted by the bite of the Aedes mosquitoes, just like dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya. The symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, headache, muscle pain and others. Usually the illness lasts a few days. The symptoms can be treated with regular pain and fever medicines, plenty of water and rest, but there’s nothing that can cure the disease itself.

The social problems are a huge aspect that has contributed to the Zika outbreak in Brazil. The virus regularly affects the population that lives in the slums (favelas); where the infrastructure does not provide a good quality of life: precarious sewerage system and electricity system, houses built without previous planning, causing the risk of sliding if there’s a storm. Due to those problems, they are a lot more vulnerable to the infection. The public health systems are not effective, so people with less money can’t afford the sufficient support. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, this is another issue, since unfortunate families can’t afford an appropriate water storage, and they do it anyway without proper covers. The disease is further spread by the shortage of mosquito repellents in pharmacies as they are constantly out of stock.

Recently, researchers have found a possible link between the Zika virus and babies born with microcephaly (a disease related to malformation, which the baby is born with an abnormally small head size), and most of those babies were born in poor communities. The number of microcephaly cases in Brazil are increasing, especially in the Northeast of the country. The possibility that contact between women and the virus during pregnancy affects the baby is plausible, but that is still under investigation.

With the Olympic Games taking place in Rio de Janeiro in August. The committee issued a statement that said the venues where competitions will be held are going to be inspected daily: water storage will be controlled to avoid stagnant water where the mosquitoes could lay their eggs, preventing the increase of the mosquitoes during the games.

The prediction is that the spread of the virus will significantly decline during the month of the Olympics. Since August is in wintertime the proliferation of the Aedes will probably decrease.

In the beginning of this year, World Health Organization (WHO) announced the virus was likely to spread through America entirely by the end of the year. There are some cases confirmed in Texas and even one suspected in Europe. President Obama said he will join the fight against the virus, once it’s becoming an alarming global issue. The CDC also launched several campaigns for travelers, for pregnant women, providing more information and facts about the virus and the Aedes mosquitoes.

The Brazilian government is still working towards a solution for the spread of Zika in the country. Last month, during Carnival, a lot of companies were handing out flyers during the festivities to remind the people of the danger of this disease, once is sexually transmitted. Brazilian army also sent over 200,000 people to visit houses in a campaign against the virus.

During the Olympics, a huge number of tourists from all over the world will come to our country, and with this amount of people in Brazil, the government should work even harder on infrastructure for such big event, not only for it but for all Brazilians, especially the population that live in the slums, because, as I said before, they are suffering the most. In my opinion, the hospitals should be upgraded with better technologies and support for the amount of people in need, and the government should invest in faster medical research for a prevention, like a vaccine or medicine, and, in the future, even a cure. Meanwhile, all media and sources of information, such as TVs, newspapers and radios should show the aspects of the virus and how to prevent it.

The government still has a lot to do when it comes to social aspects, but we, the people, have to contribute for it as well. Once government establishes a resolution, and it’s up to the population to help to keep it going and make it successful.

By: Giuliana Costa- Check out her profile on Goodwall: https://www.goodwall.org/giuliana-costa

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