"WHO may be leading Brazil down wrong path on Zika virus"

"Nearly a year after Zika began to be reported here, and five months after the government declared a public-health emergency, no one has yet found proof that Aedes aegypti is spreading Zika or whether it may be one among several vectors. One critical question is whether the virus can be transmitted by another mosquito – possibly one in the genus Culex, which is vastly more common than Aedes aegypti.

Yet Brazil, on the advice of the World Health Organization, has based its entire response to the Zika crisis on combatting this one mosquito species. And the political and economic crisis gripping the country has sidelined an already haphazard and underfunded response.

But Ms. Rousseff was wrong. Her government does not know even this one fact about Zika. Although there is good cause to suspect that Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species with distinctive black-and-white striped legs, is the agent of infection, there are no confirmed findings of the virus in aegypti in Brazil.

Nearly a year after Zika began to be reported here, and five months after the government declared a public-health emergency, no one has yet found proof that Aedes aegypti is spreading Zika or whether it may be one among several vectors. One critical question is whether the virus can be transmitted by another mosquito – possibly one in the genus Culex, which is vastly more common than Aedes aegypti.

"Scientists outside Brazil increasingly share her fears. Fiona Hunter, an entomologist with Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., who attended the Aedes summit, said she is deeply concerned that the country might be making a mistake in its response. “The fact that there are no data as far as I can tell that Aedes aegypti is driving this Zika epidemic just flabbergasts me.”

Dr. Hunter was involved in the first surveillance to find the vector for West Nile in Canada. To do that, she said, scientists set traps to gather every mosquito existent in an area, then tested and retested dozens of species to establish beyond doubt which one was driving the epidemic.

“That’s how research into a new emerging disease ought to be done,” she said, and the vicious behaviour of Zika in Brazil merits treating it as a new disease. “But they didn’t figure it out – the Brazilians automatically assumed it’s aegypti. I hear physicians here on the radio in Canada saying you don’t have to worry ever about Zika – well, yes you do. There are implications for the spread of this virus around the world.”

Dr. Capurro in Sao Paulo said that she would like to be analyzing 2,000 mosquitoes a month but is constrained by the lack of a national network. “I need connections with hospitals [to identify prospective capture sites] and municipal administrations – who do I even call?” she said.

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