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Brazil Mobilizes Troops in Fight Against Virus Carrying Mosquitoes


A health worker stands in the Sambadrome as he sprays insecticide to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan. 26, 2016.

Brazil is mobilizing some 200,000 military troops in its fight against the Zika-carrying mosquito, which is blamed for spreading a virus that is linked to horrific birth defects.

Health Minister Marcelo Castro said the troops will travel to homes across the country distributing pamphlets and offering advice on mosquito eradication, according to Rio de Janeiro's O Globo newspaper.

The newspaper also quoted Castro as saying that the government would distribute mosquito repellent to 400,000 women who receive government benefits.

On Tuesday, Rio de Janeiro sent fumigators into the city's Sambodrome stadium, which will be used for the upcoming carnival celebrations and will also be used for Olympic archery competition in August.

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The World Health Organization said the mosquito-borne Zika virus could be linked to 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly in Brazil, which results in abnormally small heads in newborns and can affect brain development.

"We have, to this point, recorded 49 deaths of microcephaly," WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a news briefing in Geneva.

He said scientists are trying to establish a link between the virus and microcephaly but that, so far, the evidence is circumstantial.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned pregnant women against travelling to Brazil and 21 other countries and territories with Zika outbreaks.

Rio De Janeiro will host the Summer Olympic Games this August.