Zika Virus In Brazil

Updated: Jul 24




Zika virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and can be spread through semen. A MD professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, William Schaffer, said the following to Cosmopolitan Magazine:

"If a woman is infected, the body will eliminate the virus within 10 days." The article also mentions that the Zika virus can infect a man's semen up to 62 days. However, eighty percent of those who are infected are asymptomatic.

There’s more than 4,000 cases of the Zika virus amongst newborns in Brazil since October 2015. Brazil’s Health Ministry proposed that women try to abstain from getting pregnant at least until more is known about the Zika epidemic, or until it has conceded. Coincidentally, in Brazil’s capital of Brasilia, there hasn’t been any case of newborns with the Zika virus. Apparently, the epidemic is rampant amongst the population of young women in Brazil that are African descent (afro-brazilians) who live in the country’s least-developed regions. With that said, the Zika virus seems like an aftermath of the socio-economic inequalities of Brazilian society. Women who are at high risk tend not have access to reproductive health care and live in places where mosquitos are abundant thus making it easier to contract mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya.

In Brazil, places that are permeating with mosquitoes includes crowded and/or inferior housing where stagnant water can be found everywhere. The breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes are places with stagnant water, which are usually places that are substandard in the tropical country of Brazil. Many women have to work long hours in the outdoors, or run errands and tend to their children and cant avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes (and the tropical temperature does not make it any easier in choosing whether to go outside or to stay inside).

The Zika epidemic has brought attention to inequalities of reproductive rights. In 2010, a national survey that found that by age 40, one in five Brazilian women had at least one abortion which means that more than 5 million women should have went to prison. Of course, many of these abortions were illegal and performed in unsanitary environments. One can see how abortion is another variable in Brazil’s economic inequality. Wealthy women can pay to secure safe abortions, while most women can’t. So women are forced to carry their pregnancies with stigma and fear. Many public health communities don’t conduct blood tests that efficiently detect or diagnose birth defects, an amplification of the harm caused by government’s negligence.

Women that have an inferior socio-economic status and who are responsible for child care, caregivers of disabled, dependent children and women who are domestic workers are the ones that are at high risk too. Its enough that there are women who have been abandoned by their partners after giving birth to a baby with neurological problems, the government doesn’t have to abandoned them too. The government needs to be aware and acknowledge that giving women accessible and affordable contraception along with safe and legal abortion is in the best interest of not only the women that are in need of these services, but for the government itself when it comes to controlling epidemics such as the Zika virus which affects not only these women but Brazil as a country. In the long run, the government should provide sufficient financial support along with social services especially for these women. In the short run, the government should destroy the habitat of the mosquitoes and work on gathering more research on the Zika virus in order to figure out how to end this epidemic.

“Asking women to avoid pregnancy without offering the necessary information, education, contraceptives or access to abortion is not a reasonable health policy. Sexual and reproductive rights for all women, poor and rich, must be taken seriously. The government should immediately offer a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health care to all Brazilian women, with a specific focus on those at most risk of Zika infection. Brazil has some of the world’s strictest abortion laws. The procedure is legal only in cases when the life of the woman is in danger of complications, or she was raped, or she is carrying an anencephalic fetus. Knowledge that a child will suffer from serious neurological problems is not grounds for legally terminating a pregnancy. That doesn’t mean that abortion is uncommon, though.”


Resources:

1. Diniz, D. (2016, February 8). The zika virus and Brazilian women's right to choose. The New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/08/opinion/the-zika-virus-and-brazilian-womens-right-to-choose.html

2. Drillinger, M. (2016, February 19). Sex tips for boring people: Zika virus, big feet, and self-loving on display. Thrillist. Retrieved July 24, 2022, from https://www.thrillist.com/sex-dating/nation/can-you-get-zika-virus-from-having-sex

3. Colvin, L. S. (2021, November 11). What is the zika virus?: Johns Hopkins Medicine. What is the Zika Virus? | Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved July 24, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/zika-virus/what-is-zika-virus.html

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