Brazil will deploy 220,000 troops in its fight against mosquitoes spreading the Zika virus.
The troops will go from home to home handing out leaflets on how to avoid the spread of Zika, which has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains.
The announcement came after Brazil’s Health Minister Marcelo Castro said the country was “losing badly” in its fight against the virus.
No treatment or vaccine is available.
Marcelo Castro said the troops would be sent out on February 13 to hand out leaflets and give advice on how to eradicate mosquito breeding grounds.
The health minister told O Globo newspaper that the spread of the Zika virus was one of the greatest public health crises in Brazilian history.
He added that the mosquito, which also transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever, was Brazil’s “public enemy number one”.
“Last year we had the highest number of dengue cases in the history of Brazil,” Marcelo Castro said.
“We’re losing badly in the battle against the mosquito.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on January 25 that the Zika virus was likely to spread across nearly all of the Americas.
Symptoms include mild fever, conjunctivitis and headache and the virus has already been found in 21 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America.
However, what the authorities are most worried about is the damage the virus can potentially cause babies in the womb.
Brazil has recorded a huge spike in cases of babies born with microcephaly and a number of Central and South American nations have asked women to delay pregnancy.
There have been 3,893 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil since October compared with the previous annual average of just 160 cases.