Just over 100 hundred miles from Brazil’s largest outbreak of the Zika virus sits a grouping of modest houses scattered on an arid, desolate landscape. Some show flashes of light pastel colors that jump out from low-lying hills, when seen in the distance. A look inside one of the homes reveals religious iconography along with few furnishings and dirt floors.
The quiet, pastoral setting is the village known as Comunidade Quilombola do Serrote do Gado Bravo. The village, founded by former slaves whose descendants inhabit the settlement, contrasts sharply with the densely populated, bustling coastal city of Recife, the heart of Brazil’s Zika outbreak. Another striking difference: In the village there is little of the trash and debris seen in the streets and canals of Recife. That city’s trash and stagnant water have made it into a mosquito breeding ground and exacerbated the spread of the Zika virus there.
Lourinaldo Alves Rodrigues, 68, is among those who live in the village. Wearing a worn, tan felt hat and a white beard that frame his rugged features, Rodrigues seems to exude an inner sense of pride and dignity. He explains the proper sanitary approach, not widely adhered to in Recife, that helps control the mosquito population.
“The bottle of water has to be upside down because the mosquito will even land on the bottle’s cap,” says Rodrigues. “Anything with water cannot just be laying around.”
Despite all the precautions, he and other family members have contracted the Chikungunya virus, which causes fever and joint pain. Chikungunya is also carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads Zika.
“Well, I’ve never seen this problem in the world since I was born,” Rodrigues says. “It’s the end of the world.”