Now that the health emergency has ended, the country's tourism industry and destination marketers ought to consider a coordinated ad campaign as a way to restore formerly high visitor counts.
Brazil declared an end to its public health emergency over the Zika virus on Thursday, 18 months after a surge in cases drew headlines around the world.
The mosquito-borne virus wasn’t considered a major health threat until the 2015 outbreak revealed that Zika can lead to severe birth defects. One of those defects, microcephaly, causes babies to be born with skulls much smaller than expected.
Photos of babies with the defect spread panic around the Western Hemisphere and around the globe, as the virus was reported in dozens of countries. Many would-be travelers canceled their trips to Zika-infected places.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others recommended that women who were pregnant shouldn’t travel to affected areas. The concern spread even more widely when health officials said it could also be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person.
The health scare came just as Brazil, the epicenter of the outbreak, was preparing to host the 2016 Olympics, fueling concerns the Games could help spread the virus.
One athlete, a Spanish wind surfer, said she got Zika while training in Brazil ahead of the Games.
In response to the outbreak, Brazil launched a mosquito-eradication campaign. The Health Ministry said those efforts have helped to dramatically reduce cases of Zika.
From January through mid-April, the Health Ministry recorded 95 percent fewer cases than during the same period last year. The incidence of microcephaly has fallen as well.
The World Health Organization (WHO) lifted its own international emergency in November, even while saying the virus remained a threat.
“The end of the emergency doesn’t mean the end of surveillance or assistance” to affected families, said Adeilson Cavalcante, the secretary for health surveillance at Brazil’s Health Ministry.
“The Health Ministry and other organizations involved in this area will maintain a policy of fighting Zika, dengue, and chikungunya.”
All three diseases are carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
But the WHO has warned that Zika is “here to stay,” even when cases of it fall off, and that fighting the disease will be an ongoing battle.
Adriana Melo, the Brazilian doctor who raised alarm bells in the early days of the outbreak about a link between Zika and birth defects, said the lifting of the emergency was expected following the decline in cases.
“The important thing now is that we don’t forget the victims,” said Melo.
Subscribe to Skift Pro
Subscribe to Skift Pro to get unlimited access to stories like these ($30/month)Subscribe Now
Photo Credit: Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, responsible for transmitting Zika had caused an 18-month-long public health emergency that also led to a downturn in tourism (despite the country hosting the Summer Olympics). Felipe Dana / Associated Press
Brazil’s Miles-Based Flight Seller MaxMilhas Buys a Hotel Discounter
Many bootstrapped travel companies may prove more innovative than venture-backed ones during the pandemic. MaxMilhas is an example, given its distinctive approaches to selling flights and hotels.
Sean O'Neill, Skift | 4 weeks ago
Despegar’s Strength in Mexico and Colombia Helps Blunt Pandemic Impact
Argentina-based Despegar has broadened its geographic reach through acquisitions, and that has enabled the company to boast that seasonality factor has been eliminated from the business. While that statement is a stretch, it will be great for the company to take advantage of Mexico summers while Brazil winters.
Dennis Schaal, Skift | 1 month ago
Startup Casai Buys Its Way Into Serviced Apartments in a Play for Brazilian Business Travel
The conventional wisdom in the U.S. and Europe has been that business travel will be slow to recover easing out of the pandemic and that emerging markets in Latin America, such as Brazil, will have a snail-like rebound, too. Travel startup Casai is gambling that both ideas are wrong.
Sean O'Neill, Skift | 2 months ago