Brazil’s president has announced a nationwide attack on the mosquito that spreads the Zika virus, vowing to “win this war” against the insect that researchers in have linked to a rare birth defect.
Dilma Rousseff said an operation to eliminate breeding areas for the Aedes aegypti mosquito had begun at installations run by the armed forces and at educational, health and other centres.
She called on the rest of society to join in eliminating areas of standing water, which can include things as small as a discarded food container.
“The government, churches, football teams, labour unions ... everyone must do their part to eliminate the breeding grounds,” she said. “We will win this war.”
Later, the White House said Ms Rousseff and President Barack Obama discussed their concerns about the spread of the virus in a telephone conversation.
It said the leaders agreed on the importance of working together to spearhead research and speed development of vaccines and other technologies to control the virus. They also agreed to prioritise building national, regional and global networks to fight the threat from infectious diseases more broadly.
Ms Rousseff announced the offensive against the mosquito following a video conference with five Brazilian state governors and six cabinet members.
Brazilian researchers have linked Zika to a seemingly sudden upsurge in cases of microcephaly, in which children are born with abnormally small heads.
Afterwards, health minister Marcelo Castro said: “The mosquito is not stronger than the entire country. We will win this war.
“We have asked the people to clean their homes and now the government is cleaning its home.”
Brazil has won the war against the mosquito before. Following major eradication efforts, it was declared free of the mosquito in 1958. But the effort faded and the insect returned from neighbouring countries.