News - February 11, 2016

Meanwhile in Latin America

In the news: Latin America has been shaken by an outbreak of zika virus, which is mainly dangerous for unborn babies. How are people in Brazil, Surinam and Colombia affected by this health crisis?

Photo: Presidencia de la republica dominicana

Commentary by Silvia Gabriela Abreu e Silva (MSc Nutrition and Health), Richella Parker (BSc International Development Studies) and Natalia Vasquez Urbina (MSc Animal Sciences).

Silvia: ‘My cousin lives in the US and she’s pregnant. She wanted to come back to Brazil for Christmas. We advised her against it because it would be dangerous. So she stayed at home this year. The zika virus is spread by mosquitoes. It’s summer at the moment and it is raining a lot so there are loads of mosquitoes. It is a big problem in the north-east of Brazil especially. This region is poorer and less developed than the rest of the country. Poor hygiene makes it hard to control the virus. It is only really dangerous if you are pregnant. It is important to remove water and garbage from your house. Even a glass of water on the table can be dangerous. The government is working with universities and research institutes to find solutions.’

Richella: ‘A good friend of mine and her family all had zika. They had joint pain, red spots and fever. After a week in bed they got better. There are not always symptoms. The government in Surinam is calling on everyone not to get pregnant at the moment, because that is dangerous. Most women are not scared because there haven’t been any cases in our country of pregnant women getting the virus or of deformed babies like in Brazil.’

Natalia: ‘In general people in Colombia are not scared of the zika virus. The dengue fever virus has already been here a while and is spread by the same mosquito. You get much sicker from that than from zika. People here are more afraid of that. But the government has advised against getting pregnant until July 2016. A friend of mine is pregnant. She is under strict observation by doctors. Just like other Colombians she makes sure she throws out garbage quickly, uses insecticide sprays and stops puddles forming around the house.’