One of the toughest stories that we had to cover here in Brazil in 2016 was the outbreak of the Zika virus. I was part of a team here that basically started trying to understand what was happening with this strange new infection and some horrible consequences that basically provoked a global health scare earlier at the very beginning of 2016.
It was a virus that people knew very little about. Its existence had been known since the 1940s in Africa. But it was until very recently thought to be a really minor sort of infection, sort of like a mild flu. What happened though was at some point in 2015, people started getting sick here in Brazil and doctors weren't quite sure why.
Then came a giant wave of babies with birth defects, particularly microcephaly, which is a deformation of the brain where it essentially doesn't mature, doesn't grow the way it's supposed to. Over the course of the year, the hardest part of understanding this was just to know exactly what was going on, especially when scientists, doctors and the federal government and global health authorities themselves were kind of clueless.
And it took scientists and doctors a while to understand the two things were related. In Brazil, this year because so many people had already been infected, the government is actually hopeful that there will be fewer infections. And that's basically because of immunity. Once you've had a virus like Zika which is related to dengue and yellow fever, and some other tropical diseases, you can't really get it again.
So as temperatures here warm up again in the southern hemisphere summer, it should be right time for infection. But they're actually hoping that fewer people will get sick and that there will be fewer of this horrible complications affecting newborns and other people.