Mosquito-borne illnesses, including the Zika virus and dengue fever, continue to plague Brazil in an epidemic that started last year.
Mainly concentrated in northeastern regions of Brazil, Zika has affected thousands. As of yet, no treatment is available for the virus, and formal testing for the disease is only available in a few laboratories in Brazil. The presence of dengue in the country has also reached an all-time high, with at least 1.6 million infected as of last year. Higher incidence of the diseases may be due to unusually strong El Niño temperatures and precipitation, yielding warm, stagnant water in which mosquitoes breed.
The Zika virus first emerged in the 1940s in Africa; however, not much is currently known about the disease. First appearing in the Americas in early 2015, the virus has spread rapidly in the past year. Symptoms are usually mild, including rashes and fevers, and generally last around 2-7 days. Recently, however, the virus has recently been linked to incidences of microcephaly, a rare birth defect that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads. Incidence of the defect, which almost always results in infant mortality, has increased from less than 150 cases in 2014 to more than 2,700 in the past year.
Amid the rampant corruption charges against the current government and major economic downturn, the government’s power to manage these outbreaks has been called into question. In an attempt to decrease incidences of microcephaly, it warned women not to get pregnant. Other countries, such as the U.S., have reported some cases of Zika as well, spread by travel to and from Brazil. Concerns have only grown in light of preparation for the 2016 Olympics scheduled to be held in Rio de Janeiro in August. As temperatures and rainfall are projected to increase over the course of this year, instances of the diseases are likely to grow.