Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

At the dilapidated morgue in the northern Brazilian city of Natal, Director Marcos Brandao walks over the blood-smeared floor to where the corpses are kept.

He points out the labels attached to the bright metal doors, counting out loud. It has not been a particularly bad night, yet there are nine shooting victims in cold storage.

Most were shot with guns that were not legally owned, he says.

A few short years ago, Brazil was soaring. Its economy was on the upswing and the country was preparing for the international spotlight with the 2014 World Cup.

But now, as it gets ready to host the Summer Olympics this August, Brazil is mired in political crisis and economic turmoil, and is plagued by the worsening Zika virus. Over the weekend, more than a million demonstrators hit the streets to protest against the government and demand the president's resignation.

What happened?

Political Crisis

Last week it was all about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. That was about racism.

This week, social media erupted over something that has long been an issue within the black community. Colorism — the idea that your skin tone and not only your race determines your opportunities.

Actress Zoe Saldana faced a firestorm over her portrayal of music and civil rights icon Nina Simone.

Valentina Vitoria was born in December.

She has microcephaly, the birth defect that causes an abnormally small head and can cause brain damage as well.

The baby's mother is 32-year-old Fabiane Lopes. She's caring for her daughter in a tiny, windowless one-room apartment in Rio de Janeiro. A whirring fan is the only relief they have from the heat.

In Brazil, doctors are getting closer to untangling the possible connection of Zika to microcephaly. The country has seen thousands of babies born with this birth defect since the virus arrived last year.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When it comes to Carnival, not even the Zika virus stops the party in Brazil. The highlight of the festivities are the samba parades. And tonight, NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro will be part of this high-stakes competition.

You wouldn't think of calling a mosquito "man's best friend." But that's the nickname that biologist Denise Valle uses for Aedes aegypti, the species that's been spreading the Zika virus in Brazil and many other countries in Latin America.

I think "man's best enemy" might be better.

The thing is, this mosquito likes to live near humans.

For Carnival in Brazil, lots of women don giant feather headdresses and skimpy bikinis.

But for a pre-Carnival event, Elaine Cuoto is dressed as a mosquito — complete with a long proboscis and gossamer wings.

She is part of a group of health workers dancing by a metro station in a working-class neighborhood of Rio's north zone. A few others are wearing mosquito costumes as well. And they're singing a catchy tune:

"If Zika attacks, use this number to report it, 7-4-6. Pay attention!"

How much harm can the Zika virus do?

That's the question that is bedeviling researchers in Brazil. It's not just the matter of a possible link to brain damage in babies born to mothers who contracted the virus during pregnancy. There have also been suspected cases of adult patients who suffered temporary hearing loss.

Researchers are trying to make sense of it all, and yet they lack very basic information. Even the number of cases and the degree to which it has spread are unknown.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

"We are alone. We have been abandoned by the state," says Marilia Lima, cradling her 2 1/2-month-old son, Arthur, against her chest.

Arthur is one of some 3,500 babies born with microcephaly, a birth defect that has been linked to Zika virus, since the virus was identified in Brazil in May. Although a definitive cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven, both Brazilian and international doctors believe there is indeed a connection.

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