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Brazilian Army Begins Door-to-Door Fight Against Zika

Update Date: Feb 12, 2016 10:36 AM EST

The Brazilian army will begin a door-to-door fight against the Zika virus.

On Saturday, roughly 220,000 soldiers will be handing out educational leaflets about the mosquito-borne virus with the hopes of preventing the number of cases of microcephaly, a birth defect that has been linked to the virus, from increasing. In Brazil, 404 confirmed cases of microcephaly have been tied to the virus. Another 3,670 cases of the defect, which is characterized by an abnormally small head and an underdeveloped brain, are being studied.

Information on the leaflets includes how to avoid mosquito bites, where the breeding grounds for mosquitos are and more. The soldiers are expected to reach more than three million homes in 350 cities.

The army will also be conducting a huge operation to kill Aedes aegypti populations across the nation. 50,000 soldiers and city health workers will also be using insecticides inside of people's homes. This type of mosquito transmits other viruses that can cause dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.

"We have to protect the population, especially pregnant women, athletes and tourists who will come for the Olympic Games," the country's Defense Minister Aldo Rebelo said at a news conference Thursday.

Rebelo stated that by the summertime, the Zika virus should not be a problem. There is currently no treatment or vaccine for the virus, which was considered to be a mild infection before officials noticed a link between Zika and microcephaly. The virus has also been tied to Guillain-Barré syndrome. Several studies and projects to find a vaccine have started.

Symptoms of a Zika infection include a fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). In about 80 percent of the cases, symptoms will not show up, which is why it is important for pregnant women or women looking to get pregnant to consult their doctors if they think they could have been infected.

The 2016 Rio Games begin on August 5.

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