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Zika-bearing mosquito becomes public enemy No. 1 in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The Aedes aegypti mosquito behind the Zika epidemic spreading through Latin America has become the biggest public enemy in Brazil with the launch of a national campaign.

The government launched a one-day national mobilization against the mosquito that spreads the Zika virus as well as dengue and Chikungunya, deploying some 220,000 troops across the country to raise awareness and help stamp out the insect's breeding grounds.

The English-language Rio Times dubbed it a "D-Day," as millions of pamphlets were distributed and homes and business premises were fumigated.

President Dilma Rousseff and cabinet ministers joined the campaign to curb the spread of the pest suspected of causing birth defects by affecting the fetuses.

Authorities have confirmed three deaths in Brazil linked to the Zika virus, with the victims reportedly already weakened by other ailments. The spread of the virus has coincided with an apparent surge in cases of microcephaly, a disease among babies born with abnormally small heads, and related hearing and sight impairments, as well as possible learning disabilities.

Image taken on Feb. 5, 2016 shows young people taking part in a symbolic funeral of Aedes aegypti mosquito, in the framework of the carnival in Olinda, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Brazil. (Xinhua/Diego Herculano/Brasil Photo Press/AGENCIA ESTADO)

More than 5,000 suspected cases of microcephaly have been registered in Brazil since an increase was first detected in late 2015. To date, 462 cases of microcephaly have been confirmed in Brazil.

Most of those infected with the virus show no symptoms, and those that do may only have a mild fever and minor skin rashes.

The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency due to the virus' spread through the region.

Athletes expected to take part in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio in August have expressed concern, and local officials have promised to fumigate venues. They also said that the tropical mosquito should not be a major problem in the winter month of August.

Brazilian researchers have developed a highly accurate molecular test that can detect the Zika virus in samples of blood, saliva or urine within five hours. Previous tests took several days to show results.

This week, Brazil and the United States are expected to sign an agreement to jointly develop a vaccine against the Zika virus.

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