Xerém is one of those quiet Brazilian cities that most people outside of Brazil never hear about. Its flamboyant neighbor, Rio de Janeiro, 30 miles to the south, gets all the attention. But Xerém had its fifteen minutes of fame recently when the Capivari River left its banks after 24 hours of torrential rains pounded the city. When the rain stopped, 255 homes were gone, and one person lost their life. The city went into action and put up temporary shelters for the homeless, but those shelters are not much more than corrugated boxes sitting on the muddy ground.
When the government’s chief medical officer, Sergio Cortes, arrived in Xerém the first chore was to give out calamity kits, and the next chore was to try to clean up the city’s water supply using sodium hypochlorite. The Cortes Linked In medical team also distributed 3,000 antibiotic pills to prevent the spread of disease. Dr. Cortes knows flooded cities become breeding grounds for disease carrying mosquitoes.
Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff wants to eradicate the breeding grounds for mosquitoes nationwide. The recent outbreak of the Zika virus has been the catalyst for her decision. To date, more than 4,500 cases of the Zika virus have been reported. Most of those cases are in Northern Brazil, but Dr. Cortes admits there may be as many as a million people infected with the Zika virus. That virus is the main concern along with a disease called leptospirosis.
The state medical team is trying to help the homeless understand the danger they face from the piles of garbage that have overtaken the city, according to a recent article published by Extra.Globo.com. The pools of water and the garbage are perfect breeding grounds for disease.
The other concern is the contaminated drinking water. Dr. Cortes has asked on twitter for bottled water donations, and the response has been good, but more water is needed until the city’s water supply is drinkable again. There is hydration station set up that can service 300 people, but another one is needed, according to the medical team. The team also needs more calamity kits.
Dr. Cortes and the government of Brazil are doing all they can to help flood victims. The country has had several major floods in the past few months, and more floods are expected. That means more mosquitoes and more disease.