The scare over the Zika virus, thought to cause brain damage in babies, is spooking Brazilians who fear mosquitoes carrying the disease will be unwelcome guests at Rio’s mega-Carnival.
Authorities fear that the hordes of people in bikinis thronging Rio de Janeiro next week in its world-famous Carnival will offer a feast for the mosquitoes that carry the fever.
Fumigators in overalls and goggles sprayed the city’s Sambadrome Carnival stadium yesterday, to prevent the disease-bearing Aedes aegypti mosquitoes buzzing around it.
The venue will host Rio’s annual parades on February 7 and 8, and also the archery contest during the 2016 Olympics.
A spokesman for Rio's health department said it was very concerned about the situation because the Sambadrone hosts mega-events.
"During the Carnival there'll be crowds of people from different parts of the world and Brazil, which will help the virus get in,” he said.
"The main thing is to get rid of mosquito breeding sites."
Zika has been linked to serious birth defects, including microcephaly, in which babies are born with very small heads. A surge in microcephalic babies born to women infected with Zika during pregnancy in Latin America, notably in Brazil, has prompted the United States and other governments to warn pregnant women against traveling to affected countries.
That is an alarming prospect for Brazil, already struck by a deep recession, as it prepares to welcome visitors to Rio for the Olympics. Brazil's health ministry says the Olympics will be in the cooler months when there are fewer mosquitos around.