Brazil uses drones to combat Zika virus

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Rio de Janeiro, Feb 21 (IANS) Several cities in Brazil are using drones to detect and destroy the breeding grounds of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, is flying drones over shuttered residences to check for signs of the mosquito in gardens, terraces and other places where they might breed, Xinhua reported.

Since the Zika virus has been suspected of causing birth defects, the federal government intensified its campaign to contain the disease by inspecting and fumigating residence and business buildings.

The federal government is well on its way to meeting its goal of inspecting some 60 million residences across the country.

Teams of troops and civil servants have already covered 40 percent of sites, or about 27.5 million homes, businesses and public buildings, the government said.

However, the teams were either barred from entering certain properties, or found no one there to let them in, leading authorities to consider using drones to access such sites.

According to Sao Paulo Health Secretary Alexander Padilha, the drones are one of the cutting-edge tools the city is using to fight the epidemic, which has spread throughout Latin America. The authorities are also using newly developed rapid testing methods for diagnosis.

The legislature of the west-central state of Mato Grosso has also approved a law to allow cities to use drones to combat the mosquito.

Equipped with video cameras, the drones allow operators to spot potential breeding sites from air.

A sudden spike in suspected cases of microcephaly in Brazil and Colombia has been suspected to be linked to the virus, though researchers say they need more data to verify the link.

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