Government probes deep into Zika-linked death

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Paula Laboissière reports from Agência Brasil

Health Minister Marcelo Castro said today (Feb. 11) that the ministry is conducting more in-depth research into the third Zika virus-related death in the country. The case took place in April, 2015, but results have just become available. The patient was 20 and lived in the northern state of Rio Grande do Norte.

“The information we have is that it was Zika,” Castro said, also pointing out that the World Health Organization has already been informed of the case. The patient's death adds to the other two reported in Brazil as being linked to infection with the virus.

During the same press conference, Cláudio Maierovitch, director at the Department for the Surveillance of Transmissible Diseases, explained that, as it is not common that someone young should die so quickly of pneumonia, other tests were carried out before he had been confirmed positive for Zika.

“One may not say that Zika was the sole cause of death,” Maierovitch argued. “When there's a widespread epidemic, people may die from other causes and still have the virus,” the director added.

Diagnosis kits

In the interview, the minister also admitted there was a delay in the distribution of quick test kits aimed at detecting Zika virus, chikungunya and dengue fever by laboratories authorized by the government. The licensing process took longer than expected, he said.

The ministry expects 100 thousand kits to be handed out still this month in every state. “We've already made the decision to make reporting the disease mandatory. We must act as safely as we can,” the minister said, stressing the importance of the test.

The kit was put together by the Institute for Immunobiological Technology (Bio-Manguinhos), connected to the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz).

Translated by Fabrício Ferreira