Zika epidemic adds to Brazilian President Rousseff's woes

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, whose approval ratings are languishing around 10 per cent in opinion polls, is hearing further disapproval as the government grapples with the country's Zika virus epidemic.

An outbreak of the Zika virus has infected an estimated 1.5 million Brazilians.

The virus, which is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, is suspected of causing birth defects through mother-to-child transmission, but the link has not yet been proved.

The number of confirmed cases of the birth defect Zika has been linked to, microcephaly, has risen to 404, the Brazilian Health Ministry said this week. Babies born with microcephaly have abnormally small heads.

During a television address in which Rousseff called for a united national response to fight Zika, residents of major cities including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte banged pots from their windows and balconies to express discontent.

Rousseff announced a "megaoperation" this month by the Brazilian military against the Zika virus and mosquito breeding sites.

"If the mosquito doesn't hatch, it can't spread the virus," she said calling on Brazilians to root out standing water where the mosquitoes breed.

Brazil is suffering a severe recession, while Rousseff's leftist ruling party is mired in major corruption scandals. Demonstrators have called for her to leave office, and the National Congress launched impeachment proceedings in December.

Rousseff denies any wrongdoing.

The virus has spread from Brazil to more than two dozen countries.

The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency Monday.

Eighty per cent of people infected suffer only minor symptoms, including headaches and skin rashes.

The spread of the virus prompted Delta Air Lines to alter its policies to allow individuals with infection concerns - such as women of child-bearing age - to avoid Brazil and other countries identified by US public health authorities as having active Zika transmission.

A Delta Air Lines spokesman told dpa that cabin crews can swap shifts under the policy. United Airlines, Air France and Lufthansa are following similar policies.

Last update: Fri, 05/02/2016 - 11:13

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