SAO PAULO (AP) — President Dilma Rousseff says Brazil will wage "war" on the mosquito that can transmit the Zika virus, which researchers in Brazil have linked to a rare birth defect.
In a Twitter message, Rousseff said that "we must declare war on the Aedes aegypti mosquito" and pursue an operation aimed at breeding grounds for the insect until a vaccine is developed.
"We are going to focus on eliminating all the pools of standing water where the Aedes live and reproduce," Rousseff tweeted while attending a meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Quito, Ecuador.
Back in the country Friday, she again stressed the importance of a broad mosquito eradication effort during a talk in the capital of Brasilia at a meeting of top business leaders held to discuss ending Brazil's recession.
"I ask that you mobilize your employees, your labor union brethren, members of your church, your work colleagues and classmates, your family and neighbors" to combat the mosquito, Rousseff told them. "A mosquito cannot be and is not stronger than an entire country that's conscious of the threat it represents."
Brazilian researchers have linked Zika with a spike in the number of cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads and can suffer from long-term health and developmental problems. The World Health Organization cautions that the virus has not yet been definitively shown to cause microcephaly.
The government is working to develop a vaccine against Zika but has warned it is still years away. In the meantime, it has pledged to deploy soldiers to help educate Brazilians about the dangers of stagnant water.
Brazil succeeded in eliminating the Aedes aegypti mosquito decades ago with a big nationwide campaign, but the insect slowly migrated back from neighboring nations. The mosquito also transmits chikungunya as well as dengue, which has seen record outbreaks in Brazil in recent years.