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Brazil Is Using Special Billboards to Lure and Kill Zika-Carrying Mosquitoes

April 20, 2016, 9:56 PM UTC
Brazil Faces New Health Epidemic As Mosquito-Borne Zika Virus Spreads Rapidly
RECIFE, BRAZIL - JANUARY 26: Grandmother Ivalda Caetano holds Ludmilla Hadassa Dias de Vasconcelos (2 months), who has microcephaly, at Oswald Cruz hospital on January 26, 2016 in Recife, Brazil. In the last four months, authorities have recorded close to 4,000 cases in Brazil in which the mosquito-borne Zika virus may have led to microcephaly in infants. The ailment results in an abnormally small head in newborns and is associated with various disorders including decreased brain development. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Zika virus outbreak is likely to spread throughout nearly all the Americas. At least twelve cases in the United States have now been confirmed by the CDC. The Brazilian government announced it will deploy more than 200,000 troops to combat the mosquitos which are spreading the Zika virus. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Photograph by Mario Tama Getty Images

Call it “antiviral marketing.”

Stat News, citing the marketing news site Campaign, reports that at least one pair of billboards in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has been set up to lure the type of mosquitoes which carry the Zika virus and kill them.

The burgeoning Zika outbreak has evolved into a bona fide public health crisis over the past year, particularly in temperate regions such as Brazil. Much of the concern rests on the fact that the virus can be sexually transmitted and has been definitively linked to serious birth defects (such as abnormally small heads) in the newborn children of infected pregnant women.

The specific billboards cited by Campaign are the brainchild of marketing firm NBS (an euphemistic acronym for “no bull****”). But while the idea is undoubtedly innovative, its effects are relatively meager since most of the Zika-linked birth defects have been occurring outside of Rio (and the devices, which mimic human odors, are pretty expensive to set up).

Several major efforts to fight back against the virus’ spread have centered on eliminating the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which spread it. For instance, Google (GOOG) has poured $1 million into a U.N. effort in order to, in part, research the best ways to kill of the skeeters and has deployed engineers to help map the virus’ spread.

The ripple effects of Zika have reached U.S. shores, too. On Monday, Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton’s campaign revealed that it was dispatching two top aides to Puerto Rico, which has borne the brunt of the outbreak among U.S. territories, for a fact-finding mission with local officials about the virus and its effects.

But the situation has been even more dire in Brazil. Public health officials now estimate that there are 4,000 Zika-related birth defect cases in the nation, and the pathogen’s spread has thrown a cloud over the upcoming Rio Olympic games.