Health Team

UN will focus on measuring, testing for Zika virus

Posted January 29, 2016 11:43 a.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2016 6:37 p.m. EST

— As the United National plans an emergency meeting to discuss whether the Zika virus qualifies as an international health emergency, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are keeping an eye on its spread.

Dr. Allison Aiello said researchers need to dig deeper into exactly how the virus is transmitted to understand the recent, quick growth of identified cases and to track new ones.

"One aspect is surveillance, to figure out in numbers, quantitatively, how prevalent this virus is," she said. "Right now, it takes somewhat specialized testing to identify the virus, so I think the surveillance and testing ability will be stepped up in the near future."

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Friday 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.

Rousseff said an operation to eliminate breeding areas for the Aedes aegypti mosquito began Friday at all installations run by the armed forces and at all federal educational, health and other facilities.

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, labor unions ... everyone must do their part to eliminate the breeding grounds," she said. "We will win this war."

She spoke after a videoconference with five state governors and six Cabinet members to discuss the mosquito, which Brazilian researchers have linked to a seemingly sudden upsurge in cases of microcephaly, in which children are born with abnormally small heads.

Afterward, Health Minister Marcelo Castro echoed her words, telling reporters "the mosquito is not stronger than the entire country. We will win this war."

Castro said, "We have asked the people to clean their homes and now the government is cleaning its home," referring to the federal operation.