Brazil 'Badly Losing' Battle Against Zika Mosquito, Says Health Minister

Brazil is "badly losing" the battle against the mosquito vector blamed for spreading the Zika virus, as almost 220,000 troops prepare to help with eradication efforts, AP reported.

The virus has been linked to birth defects in Brazil, including almost 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly—a congenital disease resulting in abnormal brain development and smallness of the head—compared to just 150 cases in the whole of 2014.

The World Health Organization warned on Sunday that the virus was likely to spread across North and South America, as its vector—the Aedes aegypti mosquito—is present in all countries in the region except Canada and continental Chile.

Health Minister Marcelo Castro said that the troops would go door-to-door to advise people on how to avoid the virus, and that the government would distribute mosquito repellent to 400,000 pregnant women. Castro admitted, however, that the country was unprepared for the current outbreak. "The mosquito has been here in Brazil for three decades, and we are badly losing the battle against the mosquito," said Castro.

The current Zika outbreak began in Brazil in May 2015 and its spread to 21 countries and territories so far has been aided by a lack of immunity in the local populations, which have not previously been exposed to the virus.