Dilma Rousseff.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Senado Federal, used under CC BY

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.

Related stories

Five things we don't know about Zika

WHO declares global health emergency over Zika outbreak

Latest news

Alphabet's self-driving car company sues Uber over alleged theft

Alphabet's self-driving car company Waymo said Thursday it was suing Uber and its subsidiary Otto for allegedly stealing its technology and infringing its patents.

US, Mexico take "important steps" even as Trump voices indifference

Top US and Mexican diplomatic and security officials met on Thursday in Mexico City, as President Donald Trump in Washington expressed ambivalence about relations with the United States' southern neighbour.

US Supreme Court's Ginsberg emphasizes value of free press

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed optimism about the political future of the United States despite the polarized and combative political atmosphere that has marked the fledgling presidency of Donald Trump.

Top Trump aide Bannon points to promises kept, media fight

Top White House strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday US President Donald Trump is keeping the promises he made during his campaign on issues from immigration to job creation.

Le Pen promises independent foreign policy, autonomous defence

Marine Le Pen promised Thursday that if elected president of France she would ensure it had a truly independent foreign policy as well as an autonomous capacity for self-defence.

Slovenia for ending lawsuits against Ljubljanska Banka

Croatia is infringing the memorandum of understanding signed with Slovenia in 2013 which they interpret differently, the Slovenian Embassy said on Thursday after a hearing at a Zagreb court in a suit which Croatia's PBZ bank filed against Slovenia's Ljubljanska Banka (LB) and Nova Ljubljanska Bank (NLB) over transferred foreign currency savings.

Marin Pucar appointed as new CEO in Podravka food concern

Marin Pucar is the new Management Board chairman of the Podravka food concern and will take the helm of the company after Zvonimir Mrsic's term expires at midnight on Thursday.

Croatian MEP says Moscow wants to influence in western Balkans

Croatian MEP Ivan Jakovcic said in an interview with the Montenegrin Pobjeda daily on Thursday that Moscow is trying to exploit the political forces in Montenegro and that Russia's meddling in Montenegro's internal affairs was "unacceptable behaviour."

New York Times launches brand campaign for 'The Truth' with Oscars ad

The New York Times is using Sunday's Academy Awards show to launch an advertising drive with an ad spot that capitalizes on President Donald Trump's confrontational relationship with the paper and other mainstream media.

Gambia charges former spy chief with murder of opposition leader

The former head of the Gambian national intelligence agency has been charged with the murder of an opposition youth leader who died in detention last year.

Dutch populist Wilders won't publicly campaign after security fiasco

The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) won't make public appearances in support of its election campaign after a security official assigned to protect party founder Geert Wilders was detained by police.

Peace Implementation Council Steering Board calls for defusing tensions in Bosnia

The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) met on Thursday, expressing the international community's concern about the situation in the country and calling on local politicians to act rationally to prevent an escalation of the crisis after a motion was submitted to review an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in BiH's case against Serbia for genocide.