The Brazilian Ministry of Health issued a warning Thursday urging its citizens to take precautions during the country’s holiday season in order to reduce their exposure to a deadly mosquito-borne disease known as Zika.
The announcement is part of a massive public awareness campaign to help combat a fast-spreading virus some health officials are linking to thousands of cases of infant brain damage, also referred to as microcephaly.
The viral disease usually results in mild fever, rash, headaches, arthralgia, myalgia, asthenia and non-purulent conjunctivitis, with one out of four people affected not developing symptoms at all, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, Zika is also believed to cause impaired and untreatable brain development in unborn infants.
Brazil has discovered cases of microcephaly in 20 of its 27 states, notably in Pernambuco, where there were 1,031 reported cases and three deaths from the condition.
Initially concentrated in northeastern Brazil, many cases of microcephaly have now been detected in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to the south.
Officials worry that as the city experiences its worst drought in 80 years, many households in Sao Paulo have been storing water in open containers outside, which creates the conditions for mosquito breeding and proliferation.
“Before you go on vacation, properly dispose of cans, bottles, and any containers that can collect standing water. With the help of federal, municipal authorities along with the entire population, we will launch a national mobilization to fight against mosquito-borne diseases,” the Brazilian Health Ministry announced in a press release.
As of Dec.1, 2015 a total of 13 states of the Americas have confirmed the circulation of the Zika virus: Brazil, Colombia, Chile (Easter Island), El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela.