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Brazil, Jamaica find clever ways to focus attention on Zika threat

4 February, 2016 8:42 PM
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Brazil, Jamaica find clever ways to focus attention on Zika threat

Brazil's President promises to defeat Zika virus

(CNN)If you visit the official Brazilian government website of, you will probably wonder if it has been hacked. The site, it seems, has been infested by mosquitoes who seem to have just had a very satisfying meal. Their bellies seem red and engorged.

But the insects flying across the top of the website are not the result of hacking effort or a security breach. It's a clever effort by the government of Brazil to raise awareness about the Zika virus, which infected up to 1.5 million people last year in South America's largest country.

If you hover with your mouse over a mosquito flying on the website, a fly-swatter appears. If you click, a big, bright red banner appears with a message in Portuguese: "Just killing a mosquito is not good enough. We cannot let it be born, and that depends on all of us."

The banner gives users the option to go into a Brazilian Health Ministry information page about dengue, chikungunya and Zika. It says Brazil has mobilized 220,000 members of the armed forces and 300,000 government agents to deal with the health crisis.

"A mosquito is not stronger than the whole country," the page says, echoing last Friday's words of Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Castro. President Dilma Rousseff said the same day that Brazil will "win this war" against Zika.

Brazil has also taken the battle against Zika to the streets. Last Sunday, health workers distributed information kits about the virus. The group included musicians playing samba along on the streets along the world-famous Ipanema Beach. Some carried large signs that read "Get out, Zika." Others wore T-shirts with the same message.

Brazil is not the only country using innovative and funny ways to raise awareness about a very serious threat. The government of Jamaica, one of several countries recommending that women postpone pregnancy, is resorting to music, reggae to be more specific.

The reggae tune also recommends Jamaicans to get rid of sources of stagnant water such as discarded tires and open garbage bags. It says to use mosquito repellent often.

Dr. Michael Abrahams, a gynecologist and obstetrician who's also a comedian and poet, sings the song. In a recent column for Jamaica's The Gleaner newspaper, he issues a warning to the Caribbean nation.

"I am urging all Jamaicans, for 2016, to resolve to do all that we can to fight the Zika virus (ZIKV) and increase public awareness about it. Armed with our knowledge of ZIKV, and being amply warned, we must play our part in preparing our country for what appears to be the inevitable," Abrahams writes.

The Caribbean country reported its first case of the virus in a 4-year-old child. The Jamaican health ministry says the child tested positive for the virus last Friday.


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