The North and Northeastern regions of Brazil have always been a hotspot for infectious diseases. But 2015 was the year that the term infectious diseases took on a whole new meaning in those areas of Brazil. The Zika virus tore a whole in Brazil in 2015, and that whole became a canyon of fear in 2016. No one knows that better than the former director of the Ministry of Health in Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Sergio Cortes. Dr. Cortes was the state director for seven years, but he decided to accept the position of Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director of Rede D’Or São Luiz in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. When the first Zika virus cases were reported in 2015, Cortes was asked to visit the area and assess the situation. Cortes was asked to do the same thing when The Xerém flood turned that area into a breeding ground for the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The immediate response of Dr. Cortes and his team prevented an outbreak of dengue after the Xerém flood, but Cortes and the first responders in Bahia didn’t have the same results when the Zika virus first appeared in 2015. Dr. Cortes and the team made sure all the garbage was removed from the streets of Xerém, and there was enough clean drinking water available. The Brazilian government also began an intensive eradication program as well as an education program that explained the symptoms of dengue and how to treat people infected with the virus.
The dengue virus wasn’t a newcomer to Brazil, but the Zika virus outbreak was new and very little was known about the virus except that the some of the symptoms were the same as dengue and the chikungunya virus. The muscle pain, headache, and itching are the same, but the outbreak of microcephaly in babies that were born to women with the Zika virus made it a bigger threat than the dengue and chikungunya virus. The other issue that hindered a cure for the Zika virus is, it is hard to identify the virus in the field. Another fact that has medical experts baffled is 80 percent of the people infected with the Zika virus don’t know they have the virus.
The Zika virus outbreak in Brazil was the beginning of a possible worldwide threat. That outbreak finally began to materialize in a big way in the United States in August 2016. To learn more about Dr. Cortes visit his LinkedIn page.