Brazil launches anti-Zika campaign in schools
Government ministers, state governors, health agents and members of the armed forces are visiting schools throughout Brazil to involve students in the nationwide campaign to eradicate the mosquito that spreads the Zika virus.
The Health Ministry said on its website that schools in Brasilia, in the country's 26 state capitals and in 115 cities will be visited on Friday.
The ministry said the objective is to raise awareness of the importance of eliminating the breeding ground of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that also transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
Many health officials believe Zika is linked to severe birth defects.
The Education Ministry said nearly 190,000 basic education schools, universities and vocational training centres are being visited.
The mosquito lives largely inside homes and can lay eggs in even a bottle-cap's worth of stagnant water. The dishes beneath potted plants are a favorite spot, as are abandoned tyres, bird feeders and even puddles of rainwater that collect in the folds of plastic tarpaulins.
Zika's immediate effects are mild, consisting mostly of a moderate fever and a rash, and only a fifth of those afflicted notice any symptoms.
But Brazilian authorities also say they have detected a spike in cases of microcephaly, a condition that leaves infants with unusually small heads and can result in brain damage and numerous developmental and health problems. The link between Zika and microcephaly remains unproven.
Since October, 5,280 suspected cases of microcephaly have been reported, Brazil's Health Ministry said. Of those, 508 had been confirmed and 837 discarded. Of the confirmed cases, 41 have been connected to Zika.
Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organisation's Zika response team is predicting that Brazil will host a "fantastic Olympics" and that the mosquito-borne virus will be "way down" by the time the Games begin in Rio de Janeiro on August 5.
Bruce Aylward, executive director for outbreaks and health emergencies, said the mosquito population is expected to drop off in the area around Rio since it will be the southern hemisphere's winter.
He said Olympic venues are also in a relatively confined area, making it easier for authorities to control the local mosquito population.