Skip to navigationSkip to content
Reuters/Pilar Olivares
Making light of tragedy.
PARTY ON

A new costume theme at Carnival in Brazil this year: the Zika virus

By Ana Campoy

There could be, hypothetically, a force powerful enough to grind Brazil’s Carnival to a halt. It’s not the Zika virus.

As public health officials grappled to contain a health crisis that the World Health Organization has declared a global emergency, Brazil kicked off its world-famous, pre-Lent festival on Feb. 5 with customary flamboyance and verve. The partying will continue through Feb. 13.

Expect the usual raucous samba contests, dazzling floats, and—this year—Zika-inspired “fantasias” or costumes. Because if there’s a season for irreverence and political incorrectness in Brazil, it’s carnival.

Here are a few examples of how Brazilians are celebrating in spite of, or because of, the mosquito-born disease.

AP Photo/Eraldo Peres
Party-goers don Aedes aegypti mosquitos costumes, these three in downtown of Recife, in Pernambuco state, one of the areas most heavily hit by Zika.
AP Photo/Eraldo Peres
Zika is not getting in the way of merry-making in Recife, where as many as 100,000 people have been infected with the virus, according to the BBC. Some told Brazilian newspaper O Globo the virus-themed costumes are not only for fun, but also help bring awareness to the outbreak.
AP Photo/Felipe Dana
Elsewhere in Pernambuco, in the city of Olinda, locals hosted the annual “Burial of the Mosquito” carnival block parade, this year made more relevant by Zika.
In Rio de Janeiro, participants in a parade at the Sambadrome held a flag reading “Out Zika” as part of a campaign to educate the public about the spread of the virus.
Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino
Revelers made use of other Zika-related gear, including mosquito nets, and insecticide cans, to celebrate carnival.
AP Photo/Leo Correa
In the end, Zika or no Zika, carnival is carnival. News that the virus has been found in saliva and is transmittable through sex seemed to cause little concern among some party-goers.