On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, with the potential to infect up to four million people in the Americas by year’s end. Under increasing pressure to slow the spread of the disease, the Brazilian government has stepped up its response, including mobilizing 220,000 military personnel to cities across the country.
According to Brazil’s ministry of health, the military will be used to spread awareness by going door-to-door, handling out pamphlets, and distributing mosquito repellent. However, it is believed that the troops will also use this opportunity to identify which homes are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes and target those sites for surveillance and fumigation. Mosquitoes are known to carry the Zika virus, which has been linked with the rare congenital condition microcephaly in newborn babies.
In the United States, meanwhile, the Pentagon announced that it will collaborate with the Department of Health and Human Services to help contain the Zika outbreak. The Department of Defense is active in efforts to contain mosquito-borne diseases as part of ongoing tropical disease research through agencies such as the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Read more