In this section we share first-person stories of men and women in the field facing zika in 2016.
BRAZIL. "I advise other women to be very careful".
I discovered my pregnancy early, at two weeks. Now, I am seven months pregnant and going to my sixth prenatal visit. I received all my vaccinations, and just need one more. I always wanted to get pregnant, since I was very young. I went to the hospital because I was vomiting, felt itchy, and had a rash. The doctor said he thought it was dengue, but I still have not received the test results. I advise other women who are pregnant to be very careful with Zika, dengue and chikungunya. I use repellent and clothes that cover me. I did everything right, but I was still bitten. Pregnant women have to be careful and go to prenatal visits. If you are pregnant, you have to take responsibility and do everything right. This is my advice.
Talita Santos da Silva, 21, at home in Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil.
EL SALVADOR. The effects of microcephaly last a lifetime.
There are between 10,000 and 11,000 babies born each year in this hospital. Last year we had five born with microcephaly, and this year we have had two, all without any association to zika. The percentage is minimal but not insignificant because the neurological effects of microcephaly last a lifetime, and those children will require support throughout their entire lives. Since the alert last November we are more aware, we are more vigilant of those mothers who have experienced rashes or have confirmed medical data, and that makes us pay closer attention to those deliveries at this hospital.
Ana Lorena Parada, Head of Neonatology, National Women's Hospital in El Salvador.
EL SALVADOR . "It's a boy and all is well, for now".
I've heard that Zika affects babies, so every time I go to the health unit I ask for abate (an insecticide which comes in small bags, is placed in outdoor washing basins, and is safe for humans and pets), to avoid mosquitoes and risks in our home. Several people have contracted Zika where I live, and I see they have rashes, hives, they itch, and their eyes are red... I believe I don't have it as I don't have fever and I don't feel sick, thank God. I am 35 weeks pregnant and my ultrasound shows it's a boy, and so far it's all good.
Yudira Esmeralda Cruz Caron, who is expecting her third child, attended her pre-natal care appointment at the National Women's Hospital, San Salvador.
EL SALVADOR. "We all sleep under mosquito nets".
In my community, we cover ourselves and we have mosquito nets in the four rooms of the house to protect ourselves from zika. We all sleep under mosquito nets. The doctors advise us to get rid of containers and not remove the mosquito nets even if it gets hot under them; they say prevention is better even if we feel warm.
Adriana Soriano, 37 weeks pregnant, is hospitalized in the perinatology ward of the National Women's Hospital in El Salvador. She sleeps under one of the 1,500 mosquito nets that the country's authorities set-up at health centers to prevent bites.
COLOMBIA. "We fumigate and check for standing water".
Now, I hardly go out. I walk and go back home. But I feel good. Twenty days ago, I started with fever, pain, and rash on the arms. I went to the medical center and the doctor told me it was very possible that it was zika . Now, I take care of myself a lot, my wife and I fumigate, and we check that there is no standing water in any of the pots.
Franco Arteaga, from the Prados del Sur neighborhood in Cali, Colombia.
COLOMBIA. "If you let me bite you I will give you a rash and your bones will hurt".
Mosquitoes united, will never be defeated. People are not collaborating, they are cleaning the vases, tires, recipients... how are we going to raise our mosquito eggs?! We, the mosquitoes, are protesting today, and we are marching in the 18th District of Cali because they do not let us work. I'm the 'Little Mosquito' and I bite and bite, bite here, bite there, bite a hand, bite a leg, bite an arm and the head. If you let me bite you, I will give you a rash and your bones will hurt, and you will definitely complain! Oh no, oh no, we are leaving! We were so happy living here… but now there is bug repellent, the recipients are gone... It can't be!
Cali Theatre Group, hired by the Ministry of Health of Colombia, Cali, Colombia.
COLOMBIA. "I'm very responsible about check-ups".
I started feeling really bad eight days ago. I had a fever of 39.8 and it wouldn't go away. I had an annoying rash on my body. I knew about zika through the news, and I was scared because I had heard that it could cause complications in pregnant women. But luckily, my ultrasound came out well. I am six months pregnant and I very happy to welcome my baby because he is wanted and I didn't want anything to happen to him. The baby is doing well and that's the most important thing. I am feeling well now, after having zika. It was horrible to feel like that. Now, I need to continue with my check-ups and with the baby's. I'm very responsible with my kids' check-ups. I have a four-year-old daughter and my doctors always congratulate me on her care.
Cindy Buitrago, patient at the Erasmo Meoz University Hospital in Cúcuta, Colombia.
COLOMBIA. "We must keep out the mosquitoes".
I live with my three children and 12 grandchildren. In my neighborhood there are many people with Zika; I am one of them. I went to the health center and they gave me medication. Last year I had chikungunya and now I have Zika. One of my grandchildren almost died from dengue, but fortunately he recovered. Containers must be cleaned and covered, bottles should be emptied and garbage properly disposed to keep out mosquitoes.
Nubia Santander Ruiz, Alto Pamplonita, Cúcuta, Colombia.
COLOMBIA. "Now persons can have a correct result in 24 hours".
We will be the first department at the national level that has the technique to process zika tests. Before, as the national laboratory was the only one with the techniques, the results could take three weeks. Now, since we have the technique, a pregnant woman, a child or other persons with risk factors can have a correct result in 24 hours. What I do is to advise whether a zika test is positive or negative. It is very rewarding to help to get faster diagnoses, which facilitate decisions and help other people. I have always liked to be involved in research and neglected diseases. I believe that one of the fundamental missions in this world is to help others. In my case, I like to do it through science.
Carlos Daza, bacteriologist, Public Health Laboratory, Department of Valle del Cauca, Colombia.
COLOMBIA. "I have faith that the doctors will help me".
I get scared every time I'm near a place with mosquitoes. I have faith that my baby will be alright. I was told at the health center that the period of greatest risk is during the first trimester, and when I had zika symptoms I was 15 weeks pregnant, or three and a half months. I had eye irritation, rashes, and my hands hurt. I had tests for dengue and zika; the dengue test was positive and I'm still waiting for the zika result, but my gynecologist said it was very possible that it was zika. He told me that if it is positive, my controls will be more frequent because my pregnancy is high risk. I have faith that the doctors will help me so that my baby is alright.
Heidi Servera, Cali, Colombia.
COLOMBIA. "We sought training so we could inform families".
We visit families once a month to chat with them, to make them aware, to understand their concerns. We are a group of 12 community mothers from different neighborhoods in the area and we take care of 12 families. We also give talks on how to prevent diseases such as Zika. We receive training so that we can share information with the families because sometimes people do not do what they are supposed to do. We have stressed the importance of keeping the tanks clean so the mosquito cannot breed in them. It's very beautiful because it is a work that comes from the heart. We work with the families and they learn from us and we learn from them.
Rosa Chona, from the Alto Pamplonita neighborhood in Cúcuta, Colombia.
COLOMBIA. "I will do everything in my power".
I contracted Zika in November, but at that time I didn't know if I was pregnant or not. Yesterday, I went to my first prenatal checkup and I was sent to have tests to see how far I was into the pregnancy. When I got sick I didn't go to the health center because I didn't know what I had. The woman in the pharmacy told me what to take and she told me that it was virus that was going around. Then I started listening to the news. At yesterday's prenatal checkup, the doctor explained to me what Zika was all about, and what I needed to do. I made the mistake of not going to the medical center before, but from now on, I will go to all my checkups and will do everything in my power to have a healthy baby.
María Mier Vargas, from Barrio Buena Esperanza in Barranquilla, Colombia.
BRAZIL. "My son is developing more everyday".
When I was four months pregnant, I had rash, body pain, fever and headache. My son was born at 39 weeks, with a head circumference of 29 cm. Now he is three months old and the circumference is 32.5 cm. I was 38 weeks pregnant when microcephaly was diagnosed by ultrasound. There are mothers who are shaken. Some people say, "Your child is sick." But he's not sick, he doesn't go to the doctor every day, he's not interned in the hospital. He just comes in for his treatments. He is a healthy child. He does visual stimulation, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, pediatric neurology and he is developing more and more.
Daniela and her son Pietro.
BRAZIL. "Children arrive angry and with muscular hypertonia, but they have developed with medical services".
We orient parents on how to hold the child, encouraging her to look forward, like a chair. In this position she will try more to hold up the neck and then the chest. There is also the issue of stimulation at home with toys, textures, trying to open her little hand, hold something, because they usually have a very high hypertonia. That is, the movement of the arms and legs is more difficult than usual for that age. So that needs to be addressed. Because otherwise, the baby will lose strength and movement. Another thing we have noticed is irritability. They cry for hours and have trouble sleeping. What I have noticed is that as they get older, at around four months or so, this irritability decreases, even without using medication. Juan Pedro (see story of Daniela Valdir) was an extremely angry child. At the first visit, I almost could not examine him. But now the mother realizes that he is already calmer.
Rafaela Viana, pediatric neurologist at the polyclinic Lessa de Andrade.
BRAZIL. "We encourage the baby to do things it cannot yet do".
I graduated 30 years ago and until September 2015, I had only treated three cases of children with microcephaly. Currently, I am attending around 25 cases. The children I treated before, who are now around 12 years old, do swimming and study in schools. But these children today, because of Zika, are coming in with more severe problems. This is causing me to lose sleep. In the polyclinic, I work in occupational therapy, which involves overall stimulation of the child. Through handling, we assist in making the movements she needs to make and can't because of the disease. We always use stimulation, with playful, interesting things. In addition to movement, you want the baby to have determination, because he has desires. So it's not only movement for movement's sake. We mainly seek to help him function.
Consuelo Figueira, Occupational Therapist Child Development Center polyclinic Lessa de Andrade.
BRAZIL. "Parents need to put aside their differences and come together".
One day, I had a fever and red spots on the body. My son was born at 38 weeks with a 26 cm head circumference. At first he was very whiny. But with therapy, he is already beginning to smile, he is better at holding his little neck up; he's developing quite a bit. I have to say to parents of children with microcephaly, do not give up. Initially, it seems like something from another world. It's complicated, you need to stay calm. The babies are very angry. My son would not stop crying for one minute. But today, at three months, the doctor can now examine him without him crying. You need to have calm, and enough love and dedication, because with that the child will develop.
Daniele Santos, 29, mother of Juan Pedro.
It's all new to me. I was caught by surprise. But the main thing is the love I feel for him. This gives you strength. And all parents have to come together. They need to put aside their differences and see that there is a being who needs both of you. And you need all the support you can get.
Valdir Francisco, 40, father of Juan Pedro.