Sergio Cortes Confronts Zika Virus After Flooding

Brazil’s Health Secretary, Dr. Sergio Cortes, has been dealing proactively with the problems produced by heavy floods a while back in Xerém, a city near in the state of Rio de Janeiro. He first toured the city and surrounding areas overwhelmed by flooding to determine the extent of damage to basic services, including fresh water supplies, electric power, road damage, and problems experienced by the sewage treatment centers.

The first problem he identified was the rise of three different, but similar mosquito-borne viruses: dengue, chikungunya, and the newly identified zika virus. Other diseases he anticipated, based on past flooding experiences, were yellow fever, hepatitis A, and infections from bacteria, including leptospirosis. Many of these diseases produce severe diarrhea, so Dr. Sergio Cortes had a number of full Hydration Centers brought into the city’s emergency shelters.

Each Center has the capabilities to treat up to 300 victims of life-threatening dehydration from diarrhea. After having the water in the shelters tested for purity, unfortunately some water sources test positive for leptospirosis. This, together with what he found while visiting the areas around Xerém inundated with flood water damage, Dr. Cortes took even more measures on abril.com.

He order truckloads of safe bottled drinking water delivered to all the shelters. He then broadcast an emergency message imploring all citizens to only drink and cook with bottled water. In his message he said, “We are taking steps, planning for the worst and hoping for the best. This center is a preventive action of the state Department of Health to support the municipality, given the amount of accumulated garbage in the city, increasing the possibility of dengue fever mosquito proliferation.”

Dr. Cortes’ efforts have all been to treat victims of flood-related diseases and to identify differences in symptoms between the 3 main viruses, especially the new zika virus. This is to help health care workers to correctly identify which virus is affecting each victim. There is great concern about the zika, as it seems to be related to a new epidemic in Brazil of prenatal deformities that result in babies being born with microcephaly, a severe life-long birth defect. Information for this story was found in from Sergio Cortes Oficial.