"A mosquito cannot defeat 204 million people. We are much stronger than this mosquito," Rousseff said, referring to the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the feared virus.

"Rousseff and several ministers are involved in the effort to halt the proliferation of the Aedes mosquito. They have visited schools and launched public awareness campaigns against the virus, a news agency reported.

Pernambuco state, where the President spoke yesterday, is the epicentre of the pandemic in Brazil. The state registered the highest number of confirmed and suspected cases of microcephaly in newborns. It was also where the connection between Zika and microcephaly was first noticed.

The government is working to develop a vaccine against Zika, but that could take time, said Rousseff. For now, the public must be more vigilant and work to stop the reproductive cycle of the mosquito, she added.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito breeds in stagnant water. The Brazilian government has intensified campaigns to raise awareness of the need to avoid keeping stagnant water indoors.

According to the World Health Organization, the geographical distribution of the Zika virus has steadily broadened since the virus was first detected in the Americas in 2015. Zika transmission has been reported in 28 countries and territories.

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